Pompeo, Mattis urge maintaining Saudi military support
By AFP – Nov 29,2018 – JORDAN TIMES
WASHINGTON — Two top officials from the administration of President Donald Trump sought on Wednesday to persuade US lawmakers to maintain America’s increasingly contentious backing of Saudi Arabia in the war in Yemen, arguing that pulling back would worsen the brutal conflict.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Jim Mattis appeared before the Senate ahead of a planned vote on reducing military assistance to Riyadh, which has been blamed for high civilian death rates in Yemen strikes and is facing global ire over the death of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“The suffering in Yemen grieves me, but if the United States of America was not involved in Yemen, it would be a hell of a lot worse,” Pompeo said, according to prepared remarks from the closed-door hearing.
“What would happen if the US withdrew from the Yemen effort? The war wouldn’t end.”
The Yemen conflict has triggered the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with the country now on the brink of famine.
The UN estimates as many as 10,000 people have died, most of them civilians, since the coalition launched military operations in 2015.
US military backing to the Saudi-led coalition is based on non-combat support, such as the sharing of intelligence and training pilots in the “best practices” of conducting air strikes with minimal civilian casualties.
The Pentagon had also been conducting air-to-air refueling for coalition aircraft, but this month said it was stopping doing so.
Still, a series of high-profile coalition strikes has killed scores of civilians, many of them children, and now some US politicians are balking at America’s role in the war.
US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis speaks to reporters outside the Pentagon in Washington, DC, on Wednesday (AFP photo)