The United States will help replenish the United Arab Emirates’s missile interceptors after a slew of attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels targeting the Gulf country, a top US general has said.
“We will help with replenishment of interceptors. And we’ll do everything we can to assist [the] UAE in defending themselves,” Frank McKenzie, head of the US Central Command which oversees the Middle East, told the Reuters news agency in an interview after a trip to Abu Dhabi.
Reuters cited an anonymous source as saying that the UAE had requested US replenishment of its THAAD and Patriot missile defence systems.
Mckenzie’s remarks come after the Pentagon announced deploying a guided-missile destroyer and advanced fighter jets to the UAE in what it called a “clear signal” of support for Abu Dhabi.
The Houthis have recently begun directly targeting the UAE, a key ally of Saudi Arabia in the region, while intensifying their attacks against the kingdom.
The Yemeni rebels launched a drone-and-missile attack that killed three people in Abu Dhabi on January 17. That was followed by several similar attacks targeting the Gulf country.
Late last month, the US military said it helped shoot down two Houthi missiles aimed at an airbase outside Abu Dhabi that hosts American troops.
On Thursday, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan condemned a Houthi drone assault on the Saudi city of Abha that injured 12 people, describing it as a “terrorist attack” and vowing to work with allies to hold the Yemeni rebels “accountable”.
“America will have the backs of our friends in the region,” Sullivan said in a statement.
President Joe Biden had delivered a similar message to Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud during a phone call on Wednesday, according to the White House.
“The president underscored the US commitment to support Saudi Arabia in the defense of its people and territory from these attacks and full support for UN-led efforts to end the war in Yemen,” the White House said in a statement describing the talks.
A Saudi-led and US-backed coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 to push back the Yemeni rebels, who had taken over most of the country, including the capital, Sanaa, and to restore the Gulf-backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
The war has brought Yemen to the verge of famine, sparking what the United Nations has said is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
The Saudi-led coalition has described the rebels as Iranian proxies – a charge that both Tehran and the Houthis deny.
Last February, Biden announced an end to US assistance for Saudi Arabia’s “offensive operations” in Yemen, as well as “relevant arms sales”, but reaffirmed his commitment to the kingdom’s security.
Since then, Biden’s administration has greenlit a $650m sale of air-to-air missiles to Riyadh, as well as a $500m helicopter maintenance deal, drawing rebuke from some rights activists.
In recent weeks, US officials have repeatedly reaffirmed US commitments to the security of Gulf allies amid Houthi attacks.
On Thursday, Pentagon Spokesperson John Kirby told Al Jazeera that Washington is in “constant communication” with Gulf partners to ensure their defensive needs are met.
Kirby accused Iran of providing weapons and training to the Houthis. On Wednesday, the White House also labelled the Yemeni rebels’ attacks on Saudi Arabia as “Iranian-enabled”.