Aid groups plead with US to end military support in Yemen civil war

Aid groups plead with US to end military support in Yemen civil war
© Getty Images

Humanitarian organizations are imploring the United States to end military support to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Yemen’s civil war, warning of potential U.S. responsibility for 14 million people being at risk of famine.

“We are pleading with the United States to back up its recent call for a cessation of hostilities with genuine diplomatic pressure, and to halt all military support for the Saudi/UAE coalition in Yemen in order to save millions of lives,” the groups said in a joint statement Monday.

“It pains us to write these words, but we cannot escape the truth: if it does not cease its military support for the Saudi/UAE coalition, the United States, too, will bear responsibility for what may be the largest famine in decades.”

The statement was signed by the heads of the International Rescue Committee, Oxfam America, CARE US, Save the Children USA and Norwegian Refugee Council, USA.

The International Rescue Committee separately released the results of a YouGov survey Monday showing that 75 percent of respondents who expressed an opinion oppose U.S. support to the Saudi and UAE coalition and that 82 percent of respondents who gave their opinion want Congress to vote to end (57%) or decrease (25%) arms sales to the Saudis.

In October, the United Nations’s humanitarian chief warned that 14 million Yemenis — half of the country's population — could soon face famine.

Yemen has been engulfed in civil war since 2015 after Houthi rebels overran the capital. The United States provides military support to the coalition fighting the rebels including logistics, intelligence sharing and arms sales.

The U.S. military stopped refueling Saudi coalition aircraft earlier this month. Opponents of U.S. involvement in the war said that was a good first step, but called for all military support to end.

At the end of October, Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico Trump needs a national security adviser who 'speaks softly' US could deploy 150 troops to Syria: report MORE and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoClarence Thomas, Joe Manchin, Rudy Giuliani among guests at second state visit under Trump Senate Judiciary Committee requests consultation with admin on refugee admissions State Department's top arms control official leaving MORE called for a ceasefire and for peace talks to begin within 30 days.

U.N. Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths has said he plans to convene talks in December in Sweden after getting attendance commitments from the Houthis and Yemen’s internationally recognized government.

The statement on Monday from humanitarian groups said that Yemenis “have exhausted their coping strategies” after years of war.

As a result, the statement said, “countless Yemenis are unlikely to live through the winter unless the parties to the conflict immediately cease hostilities" and take a series of steps such as reopening "all of Yemen’s ports," facilitating access to people in need, and stabilizing the Yemeni economy, including paying civil servant salaries.

The groups acknowledged that the United States is “one of the most generous donors” of humanitarian aid in Yemen, but said that “pale[s] in comparison” to the military support to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

If the United States doesn’t use all its leverage to force the parties in the war to take the steps the groups outlined, they said, “responsibility for the deaths of many more Yemeni civilians will lie not only with the parties to the conflict, but with the United States as well.”