Congress Establishes Oversight Over US Role in Yemen

On November 14, the House passed the conference bill of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2018. The finalized bill includes two provisions led by Congressman Ted Lieu that provide much-needed congressional oversight over the US’ role in Yemen, seeking to limit US participation in the war. The YPP applauds the passage of these provisions and thanks Representative Lieu for his tireless efforts to rein in US military involvement in Yemen’s civil war.

Section 1265 requires the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State to submit a report on military actions by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen; in particular, the report must detail the coalition’s actions to reduce harm done to civilians, efforts to facilitate the distribution of humanitarian aid, and actions targeting AQAP. Furthermore, it must detail any US involvement in operations by the Saudi-led coalition. Section 1265 would be the first DoD assessment of Saudi Arabia’s targeting ability and performance in Yemen’s civil war, whose airstrikes are the leading cause of civilian casualties. Section 1275 requires the President to submit a report that describes the administration’s diplomatic and military strategy in Yemen. Congress has repeatedly requested a Yemen strategy from this administration since it came into office in January and moved to escalate US involvement in Yemen’s civil war. Section 1275 will be the first comprehensive strategy for Yemen outlining US interests in the country and the administration’s plan to find a political solution to Yemen’s civil war. As Congressman Lieu stated, “as we approach the three-year mark of a military conflict that has left over 15,000 civilians dead and created one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, it is far past time we have a diplomatic strategy to end it.”

“These common-sense reporting requirements, which force the administration to articulate what US interests are in Yemen and officially assess the US role in Saudi Arabia’s air campaign, are long overdue,” said YPP Director of Policy & Advocacy Kate Kizer. “The provisions Congressman Ted Lieu won in this year’s NDAA are of critical importance towards finally getting much needed transparency into the US role in the conflict and creating checks on the administration’s current military-only strategy in Yemen.”

These provisions are a crucial step toward ending US complicity in human rights violations and possible war crimes in Yemen. The YPP urges Congress to take further action to end America’s involvement in the war and respond to the desperate needs of Yemen’s population. The US cannot continue to sell weapons and give military assistance to countries that consistently kill and starve civilians and block humanitarian aid. Congress has taken a key step towards ending its inaction; now, it must take initiative and avoid further humanitarian disaster on its watch.