US warns Saudi Arabia it may withdraw support over civilian casualties in Yemen
Two officials directly familiar with the Pentagon’s thinking tell CNN frustration is rising.
Defense Secretary James Mattis and General Joseph Votel, head of US military operations in the Middle East, are particularly concerned that the US is supporting a Saudi-led campaign of airstrikes that have killed large numbers of civilians.
Human rights groups, some members of Congress and the United Nations have expressed concern about Saudi Arabia’s actions for months to little avail.
But after a series of recent strikes in which large numbers of civilians were killed, the Pentagon, as well as the State Department, have now delivered direct messages to the Saudis about limiting civilian casualties.
“At what point is enough enough?” one official remarked to CNN.
It is not clear if President Donald Trump, who views the Saudis as an essential ally, would agree to a reduction of support.
The US currently provides air refueling for Saudi aircraft and some intelligence support although it’s never been made precisely clear if the US provides any targeting assistance.
US officials have long said they are trying to advise the Saudis on improving coalition processes and procedures to limit civilian casualties in airstrikes.
But US military officials clearly believe the effort is not working. Mattis has increasingly focused on the Yemen situation since the August 9 Saudi-led coalition airstrike on a school bus in northern Yemen that killed dozens of children, many younger than 15, officials say.
CNN has reported that the weapon used was a 500-pound (227 kilogram) laser-guided MK 82 bomb made by Lockheed Martin, one of the top US defense contractors.