The United States is halting the refueling of Saudi-led coalition planes engaged in Yemen, said the United States and Saudi Arabia, putting an end to one of the most fragmented aspects of US assistance to the United States. Saudi war effort.
Saudi Arabia, in a statement issued by its embassy in Washington, said it had decided to seek an end to US refueling for its operations in Yemen because it could now manage it alone.
The US Defense Secretary, Jim Mattis, supported the decision and said that the US government has been consulted.
The move comes at a time of international outrage over the murder of US Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and after the Democratic and Republican legislators have threatened to intervene in Congress next week on refueling operations.
Critics of the Saudi campaign have long questioned the involvement of the United States in the war, which killed more than 10,000 people, displaced more than 2 million and led to famine in Yemen since it began in 2015.
"We should not support the coalition war crimes and I do not see the time to continue controlling the US role in Yemen," said Ted Lieu, a Californian Democrat.
Although the administration of President Donald Trump has condemned the killing of Khashoggi, the White House has sought to preserve its relations with Saudi Arabia.
A coordinated decision by Washington and Riyadh to stop replenishment could be an attempt by both countries to prevent further congressional actions. The Saudi recognition, and later the comments of the United States, seemed aimed at suggesting that the kingdom was behind the decision.
Senators Todd Young, a Republican, and Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, had warned that the Trump administration was running out of time.
"If the administration does not take immediate action … we are ready to take further action when the Senate returns to the session," said Young and Shaheen.
Beyond the refueling, the United States provides limited intelligence support to the Saudi-led coalition and sells used weapons in the Yemen war.
Mattis said the United States will play a steady role in helping the Saudi-led coalition and the Yemeni forces to minimize civilian casualties and expand humanitarian efforts.
He also suggested plans to build Yemeni troops.
"The United States and the Coalition are planning to work together to build legitimate Yemeni forces to defend the Yemeni people, protect their country's borders and help counter the efforts of Al Qaeda and Isis in Yemen and the region," Mattis said in a declaration.
At the start of this year, Mattis had defended US military support for the Saudi-led coalition forces in Yemen, when legislators weighed forcing the Pentagon to end Washington's involvement.
Mattis argued that the stoppage of US military support could increase civilian casualties, since US refueling gave pilots more time to select their targets. He said cutting off support could jeopardize counter-terrorism cooperation and reduce American influence with Saudi Arabia.
Mattis also said he would encourage Houthi rebels in line with Iran, who fired missiles in Saudi Arabia and targeted merchant and military ships off the coast of Yemen.
A refueling stop could in itself have little practical effect on the war. US officials claim that only one-fifth of Saudi-led coalition planes require air supply from the United States.
In recent weeks, Mattis has shown a growing sense of urgency towards the end of the conflict. In late October, Mattis joined US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in calling for a cease-fire.
The UN envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, aims to summon the belligerent parties in the country for peace talks by the end of the year.