US offering logistical, intel support to Saudi airstrikes in Yemen

President Obama has authorized U.S. forces to provide logistical and intelligence support to a Saudi air offensive against rebels in Yemen, the White House said late Wednesday.
 
"While U.S. forces are not taking direct military action in Yemen in support of this effort, we are establishing a joint planning cell with Saudi Arabia to coordinate U.S. military and intelligence support," National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said in a statement. 
 
Saudi Arabia on Wednesday began airstrikes in Yemen on Shiite rebel forces, known as Houthis, which drove Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi from his hometown of Aden. 
 
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Hadi has been a key ally of Saudi Arabia and the U.S., which has collaborated with his government to fight a powerful al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen. 
 
The Yemeni president reportedly fled his hometown after Houthi forces took control of the country's largest airbase just 35 miles away. Hadi's government Wednesday asked other Gulf states to launch military strikes on the Houthi rebels, which have received training and support from Iran.
 
The White House has continued to praise its partnership with Yemen as a successful model for fighting terrorist groups. 
 
But press secretary Josh Earnest conceded Wednesday the situation in Yemen has made it harder for the U.S. to fight al Qaeda there. 
 
"The ability of the United States to put pressure on these extremists is not helped by the fact that our personnel had to leave Yemen because the situation there has become so dangerous," he said.