Defense

Dems plan resolution to withdraw US forces from Yemen civil war

A group of House Democrats wants to force a vote to withdraw U.S. forces from the civil war in Yemen, the lawmakers announced on Thursday.

They said that they will introduce a so-called privileged resolution this month if the situation in the war-battered country does not improve that would withdraw the U.S. military from helping the Saudi Arabia-led coalition fighting Yemeni rebels.

"We are preparing to introduce a new, privileged resolution in September invoking the War Powers Resolution of 1973 to withdraw U.S. Armed Forces from engaging in the Saudi-led coalition's conflict with the Houthis should additional escalations continue and progress fail to be made towards a peace agreement," the lawmakers said in a joint statement.

"There has been no specific authorization for the U.S. Armed Forces to engage in hostilities with respect to the conflict between the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthis in Yemen. We must take action to end U.S. participation in this catastrophic war in Yemen and work to bring about a peaceful conclusion to this conflict."

The effort is being led by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), who previously led the charge for a House-passed nonbinding resolution that called U.S. military involvement in the war unauthorized.

The statement was co-signed by Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee; Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), a co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus; and Democratic Reps. Jim McGovern (Mass.), Jan Schakowsky (Ill.), Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii), Michael Capuano (Mass.), Yvette Clarke (N.Y.), Ted Lieu (Calif.), Barbara Lee (Calif.) and Adriano Espaillat (N.Y.).

The lawmakers announced their plans on the same day the United Nations' special envoy for Yemen is convening the first formal peace talks in the war in two years.

Yemen's civil war has raged since 2015, when Iran-backed Houthi rebels took over the capital of Sanaa. Saudi Arabia, concerned about Iran's link to rebels near its border, intervened on behalf of the internationally recognized Yemeni government.

The United States does not actively fight in the war, but it supports the coalition with aerial refueling, intelligence sharing and billions of dollars in weapons sales.

U.S. lawmakers' patience with the Saudi coalition has been wearing increasingly thin as the civilian death toll mounts. The United Nations pegs the civilian death toll at 6,660 as of Aug. 23, a number that is largely blamed on coalition air strikes.

"It's critical that the United States not choose sides in this war, and any American involvement can and must be debated transparently," the Democrats said Thursday. "For every Yemeni civilian killed in an airstrike, countless more perish from hunger and disease triggered and sustained by the war. The Saudi-led coalition, and all parties involved, must be held accountable for their actions contributing to this ongoing crisis."

A United Nations report last month said all parties in the conflict may be responsible for war crimes.

Last month, the coalition struck a school bus, killing 40 children. The incident prompted the rare admission from the coalition that the strike was "unjustified."

The State Department said this week that Saudi Arabia's admission was an "important first step toward full transparency and accountability" while reiterating it "fully supports" U.N. Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths's efforts to end the war.

As part of the annual defense policy bill signed into law last month, Congress is requiring the administration to certify by Sept. 12 that Saudi and Emirati behavior is helping to end the war, alleviate the humanitarian crisis and protect civilians. If the administration cannot make the certification, it must stop refueling coalition aircraft.

The law allows for a national security waiver to keep refueling aircraft if the certification can't be made, but the administration still has to submit an unclassified justification to Congress if it grants the waiver.

"As the U.N. attempts to broker a ceasefire, it is imperative that the Saudi-led coalition halt fresh hostilities and planned offensives, particularly in and around the vital port city of Hodeidah," the Democrats said in their statement Thursday. "We are closely monitoring the actions of the Saudi-led coalition and the White House during these crucial peace negotiations."

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