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 MattisOval Office clash ups chances of shutdown Overnight Defense: Trump, Dem leaders fight before cameras over border wall | GOP skeptical of having military build wall | US spars with Russia, Venezuela over bomber deployment Trump, Democrats battle over wall in Oval Office spat 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 MurphyGOP fights piling up for McConnell Corker to introduce resolution holding Saudi crown prince 'responsible' for Khashoggi's death Overnight Defense: Dunford expected to finish Joint Chiefs term | House lawmakers pushing for Yemen vote | Pentagon says a few hundred troops leaving border 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) SandersCoal supporter Manchin named top Dem on Senate Energy Committee Gillum to speak at gathering of top Dem donors: report O'Rourke edges out Biden in MoveOn straw poll 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) KhannaHouse Republicans move to block Yemen war-powers votes for rest of Congress Overnight Defense: Dunford expected to finish Joint Chiefs term | House lawmakers pushing for Yemen vote | Pentagon says a few hundred troops leaving border House lawmakers push Yemen resolution as Senate nears vote MORE (D-Calif.) called the decision “a huge victory for human rights.”