Defense

Pompeo backed continued US support in Yemen war over objections from staff: report

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's recent certification allowing continued U.S. military support for Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen came despite objections from much of his staff, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. 

Citing a classified memo and sources familiar with the matter, the Journal reported that Pompeo overruled concerns by most of State Department's military and area specialists, who were worried about the rising civilian deaths in Yemen's civil war.

Pompeo, instead, sided with his legislative affairs team, who had argued that suspending support could impact plans to sell $2 billion in weapons to America's Gulf allies, according to the Journal.

A spokesperson for U.S. State Department told The Hill the department wouldn't "comment on the deliberative process or allegedly leaked documents."

The spokesperson added that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are working to end the civil war, while making efforts to alleviate the humanitarian crisis and reduce risks to civilians.

"While our Saudi and Emirati partners are making progress on these fronts, we are continuing discussions with them on additional steps they can take to address the humanitarian situation, advance the political track in cooperation with the UN Special Envoy's efforts, and ensure that their military campaign complies with the law of armed conflict and international humanitarian law," the spokesperson added.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are leading a coalition in Yemen's civil war against Iran-backed rebels that began in 2015. The United States supports the coalition with aerial refueling, intelligence sharing and billions of dollars in arms sales, according to the Journal.

Pompeo announced last week that he had certified the U.S. military to continue refueling coalition aircraft in the Yemen civil war.

Defense Secretary James Mattis in a separate statement last week said he fully endorsed Pompeo's certification.

Some U.S. lawmakers have grown impatient with the Saudi coalition as civilian deaths have increased. Last month, the coalition struck a school bus and killed 40 children, prompting outrage. The United Nations said the civilian death toll was at least at 6,660 as of Aug. 23.

A group of House Democrats said last week that they plotting moves to curtail or cut off U.S. military support for the Saudi-led coalition.

-- Updated 1:15 p.m.

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