The United States Department of Defense (the Pentagon) has said that it is not involved in the military offensive carried out by the Saudi-Emirati alliance against the Iranian-aligned Houthi militia in the Yemeni port city of Hudaida.
Speaking on Thursday, spokesman Major Adrian Galloway said Washington “does not command, accompany, or participate in counter-Houthi operations or any hostilities other than those authorised against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and ISIS,” referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).
“Our support to the coalition consists of aerial refueling to coalition aircraft and intelligence support to assist our partners in securing their borders from cross-border attacks from the Houthis,” Galloway continued.
He also said that US military support to its allies “is always geared towards mitigating noncombatant casualties.”
He stressed the importance of the port in delivering aid to alleviate the suffering of Yemenis, adding that the US supports the efforts of the UN envoy to Yemen Martin Griffith to bring the Yemeni parties to the negotiating table.
Before the Saudi coalition against Yemen began in March 2015, Hudaida port used to funnel in at least 80 percent of Yemen’s imports, mostly food.
Now, two-thirds of Yemen’s population of 28 million is dependent on aid to survive, and 8 million of those are food insecure.
Galloway’s comments came on the second day of the military operation launched by the Saudi coalition in an attempt to seize the port of city, which Riyadh and Abu Dhabi allege the Houthis are using to smuggle in weapons from Iran.
Four Emirati soldiers were killed in battles on Wednesday, while the Houthis confirmed that they had targeted a coalition ship.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday that his country was closely following the developments in Hudaida, but did not rule out the possibility of taking part in the offensive on Yemen’s third largest city.
He said he had contacted United Arab Emirates officials and talked about Washington’s desire to discuss “UAE security concerns” while maintaining the flow of humanitarian aid and goods through the important port.
Operation “Golden Victory”, backed by Emirati troops on the ground and Saudi Apache helicopters, is aimed at controlling the airport and the port, coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki said.
Coalition forces are six kilometres from the Hudaida airport, Maliki said on Thursday, and stressed that they will avoid entering the city, which is packed with 600,000 people.
The UN has warned that as many as 250,000 people could lose everything – “even their lives” in the assault.
Military sources from the coalition-supported forces have reported the deaths of about 30 Houthi gunmen and nine government troops in the recent clashes.