US to stop refueling Saudi planes in Yemen

US to stop refueling Saudi planes in Yemen
© Getty Images

The Trump administration has halted its inflight refueling support for Saudi-led coalition aircraft engaged in Yemen, U.S. and Saudi officials announced Friday.

Saudi Arabia said in a statement that U.S. assistance was no longer needed because of their own advancements in refueling.

Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisUS leaves dozens of 'high value' ISIS detainees behind amid Syria retreat: report White House officials stand by Syria withdrawal, sanctions delay amid bipartisan pushback Sunday shows — Officials rush to Trump's defense on Syria, sanctions MORE said in a statement that Saudi Arabia made the decision to stop using U.S. capabilities "after consultations with the U.S. Government."

"We are all focused on supporting resolution of the conflict, led by UN Special Envoy, Martin Griffiths. The U.S. and the Coalition are planning to collaborate on building up legitimate Yemeni forces to defend the Yemeni people, secure their country’s borders, and contribute to counter Al Qaeda and [Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] efforts in Yemen and the region," Mattis said.

"The U.S. will also continue working with the Coalition and Yemen to minimize civilian casualties and expand urgent humanitarian efforts throughout the country," he added.

ADVERTISEMENT

Saudi Arabia's three-year war has come under increased scrutiny recently, with refueling among the most tangible and controversial aspects of U.S. support for the kingdom in the conflict.

Lawmakers from both parties have pushed for the U.S. to suspend weapon sales to Riyadh and cut off refueling for the war, which monitoring groups say has resulted in the deaths of thousands of unarmed civilians.

The Trump administration's move to cut off refueling of Saudi-led coalition aircraft also comes following criticism against the kingdom over the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the country's consulate in Istanbul last month.

Khashoggi, who worked as a columnist for The Washington Post, was an outspoken critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and his killing inside the consulate has led many to call for the U.S. to penalize the kingdom.

Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyCongress set for showdown with Trump over Kurds Administration to give 'top secret' briefing on Syria amid pushback Senators call for Trump administration to testify on Syria MORE (D-Conn.) on Friday praised the Trump administration's move to stop refueling Saudi-led coalition planes, calling it "long overdue." He added in a tweet that "if refueling is a bad idea, then why still sell the Saudis the bombs and help them pick targets?"

"Time to get ALL THE WAY OUT of this moral and strategic catastrophe," he wrote. 

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders wishes Ocasio-Cortez happy birthday Video of fake Trump shooting members of media shown at his Miami resort: report Sanders can gain ground by zeroing in on corruption MORE (I-Vt.) touted legislation to end “US participation in the Yemen war as a matter of law, not simply as a matter of the president’s discretion."

Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaCongress set for showdown with Trump over Kurds Is Congress too afraid to fight Big Pharma? Democrats probing whether groups booked Trump hotel rooms to earn president's favor: report MORE (D-Calif.) called the decision “a huge victory for human rights.”