Biden is ending US support for offensive operations in Yemen

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Biden is ending US support for offensive operations in Yemen
President Joe Biden signing documentsDoug Mills-Pool/Getty Images
  • President Joe Biden is ending US support for offensive operations in Yemen.
  • The US has been supporting a Saudi-led campaign against the rebels that overthrew Yemen's government, starting a civil war.
  • The latest move by the Biden administration is intended to halt the serious humanitarian crisis in country.

President Joe Biden is ending US support for offensive operations in Yemen, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan announced Thursday.

The decision will end the support that began during the Obama administration and was continued during the Trump administration.

Sullivan stressed that the change will not extend to operations against AQAP, the brutal Al Qaeda affiliate in the region.

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The move will, however, extend "to the types of offensive operations that have perpetuated a civil war in Yemen that has led to a humanitarian crisis," he said.

The US has, to varying degrees, been supporting a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia in Yemen's ongoing civil war, which has resulted in what the United Nations has characterized as one of the world's worst humanitarian crises. An estimated 24 million people have been left needing food, shelter and medicine.

Saudi Arabia launched an offensive in 2015 against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels that overthrew Yemen's legitimate government in 2014. In addition to the troubling actions of the Houthi faction, the Saudi campaign, which has involved US weapons and other military support, is said to have resulted in many civilian casualties.

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A bomb that struck a school bus full of Yemeni children was reportedly made by US defense firm.

As president, Donald Trump defended US arms sales to Saudi Arabia, a US ally with one of the world's leading defense budgets, as being good for American companies. He called some commitments he claimed to have helped orchestrate were "the biggest orders in the history of this country."

Thursday's announcement that the US plans to halt its support for offensive operations in Yemen follows reports last week that the new Biden administration has temporarily frozen arms sales to Saudi Arabia and is reviewing the sale of weapons to the United Arab Emirates.

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While it is not out of the ordinary for new administrations to review arms sale decisions, as the Wall Street Journal noted in its report, the move is consistent with the Biden team's stated desire to prevent US weapons from being used in the Saudi-led offensive and bring an end to US support for military operations in country.

Biden "has made clear that we will end our support for the military campaign led by Saudi Arabia in Yemen, and I think we will work on that in very short order," Secretary of State Antony Blinken told lawmakers during his confirmation hearing.

Biden is expected to officially announce the change in an address Thursday afternoon as part of a broader speech on US foreign policy.

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On the civil war in Yemen, Sullivan said the president "will talk about the United States playing a more active and engaged role in the diplomacy to bring an end to conflict."

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