US to stop refueling Saudi planes in Yemen

US to stop refueling Saudi planes in Yemen
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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 MattisOvernight Defense: Trump to leave 200 troops in Syria | Trump, Kim plan one-on-one meeting | Pentagon asks DHS to justify moving funds for border wall Trump to leave 200 US troops in Syria as 'peacekeeping' force Acting Defense chief calls Graham an 'ally' after tense exchange 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.

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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 closer to forcing Trump’s hand on Saudi support House passes bill to end US support for Saudi war in Yemen This week: Border deal remains elusive as shutdown looms 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 SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersKamala Harris: Trump administration ‘targeting’ California for political purposes Harry Reid says he won’t make 2020 endorsement until after Nevada caucus Gillibrand to appear on Fox News Monday night 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) KhannaSanders campaign announces two women co-chairs after sexual harassment allegations Venezuela puts spotlight on Rubio Overnight Defense: House votes to end US support for Saudis in Yemen | Vote puts Trump in veto bind | Survey finds hazards in military housing | Senators offer new bill on Russia sanctions MORE (D-Calif.) called the decision “a huge victory for human rights.”