August 14, 2018

Warren Presses CENTCOM Commander on U.S. Involvement in Yemen

Letter Follows Reports of Close U.S. Supervision of Botched Saudi Airstrikes in Yemen

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) today sent a letter to General Joseph L. Votel, Commander of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), asking for clarification of his testimony regarding U.S. support for military operations in Yemen led by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The senator's letter comes after several recent media reports indicated that U.S. military officials closely observed a series of Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen that appear inconsistent with strict legal standards for the prevention of civilian casualties. Airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen have resulted in thousands of civilian deaths.

The United States has provided munitions, aerial refueling, and other logistical support to Saudi Arabia's military operations in Yemen for more than three years. When asked by Senator Warren whether CENTCOM has the ability to track the purpose, mission, and results of airstrikes in Yemen supported by the United States, General Votel replied that CENTCOM "does not" have the ability to do so. 

However, reports from as early as March 2018 revealed that the United States was providing intelligence to support coalition airstrikes and providing advisors for at least one Saudi-run operations center. Additionally, a recent report in The Intercept indicated that U.S. analysts were present for and provided a "minute by minute" accounting of a botched Saudi strike that nearly killed a Yemeni family using U.S.-supplied precision-guided munition.  If accurate, these reports suggest that the United States does in fact have the capability to track the purpose, mission, and results of U.S.-supported airstrikes in Yemen. 

In her letter to General Votel, Senator Warren expressed concern about these reports and asked General Votel a series of questions in order to better understand the full scope of U.S. support and operations in Yemen. 

"The reported presence of U.S. advisors in a command center responsible for actively approving and directing such airstrikes, and the reported existence of at least one U.S. intelligence assessment of an airstrike acknowledging the use of U.S.-manufactured munitions, raise questions about whether the U.S. does in fact have the capability to track the origins, purpose and results of U.S.-supported airstrikes should it choose to do so," wrote Senator Warren.

The senator is seeking answers to her questions by no later than August 30, 2018.