US Support for Coalition Civilian Targeting, March 2018 - Today

Since the Saudi- and UAE-led coalition began its intervention in Yemen’s civil war, the United States government has provided its indiscriminate air campaign with munitions, targeting assistance, and, until recently, mid-air refueling support. As civilian casualties have mounted — the air war has caused 60 percent of civilian deaths that the UN has been able to record — so have US promises of their imminent reduction. Over and over, US officials have justified their role in the campaign: The coalition is being trained in law of armed conflict (LOAC) adherence; the coalition is instituting greater civilian protection checks in its targeting process; evidence can’t be publicized, but coalition targeting is improving; even if coalition targeting is not improving, casualty numbers would be much worse without US fuel and munitions. When the Senate narrowly voted to table S.J.Res. 54 in March, a resolution which, if passed, would have directed the president to withdraw logistical support to coalition aerial missions, the mantras were repeated again: the coalition is improving with our support.

The timeline above, counting from March 2018 and updated periodically, throws these statements in stark relief. The timeline tracks major coalition airstrikes against civilians, alongside administration testimony to Congress and the press that the United States is making things better. Even if the coalition were marginally improving, as claimed, the United States has one workable option when faced with these significant and ongoing coalition war crimes: withdraw support to the air campaign and exercise existing military and diplomatic leverage over the coalition to arrest the worst of the violence, alleviate the humanitarian crisis, and move its support for a political solution to the conflict beyond mere rhetoric.

This timeline is illustrative, not exhaustive. It cannot capture the full scope of the coalition’s air campaign, nor the brutal logic underlying it. It also does not touch upon myriad and severe human rights and international human law violations committed by Houthi militias and authorities, some of which are captured by our War Crimes Tracker. It does, however, contextualize justifications for continuing US support, which coalition attacks have wholly discredited.