February 6, 2017—Washington, DC – Together with Congress, the Trump administration must immediately suspend all military support for the Saudi Arabia-led coalition bombarding Yemen, act to immediately fund the UN’s humanitarian response plan, and work toward the inclusion of all parties and factions, including non-state fighting groups, in the Yemen peace process and post-war transition. These are among the chief recommendations put forward today by the Yemen Peace Project (YPP) in its new report, America’s Role in Yemen: 2017 and Beyond.
Drawing from international reporting and YPP contacts, the report recounts the outrageous human costs borne by Yemenis caught between civil war and foreign military intervention. More than 10,000 Yemenis have been killed in ground fighting and airstrikes since the Saudi Arabian-led coalition launched its military campaign in March 2015 on behalf of exiled President ‘Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. Over 3 million Yemenis have been internally displaced, and humanitarian crises continue to mount as food imports decrease and the country’s health care system collapses.
The US has played a contradictory role in a conflict that cannot be won by conventional military means. The YPP lauds US efforts to work with the UN, and particularly its Special Envoy for Yemen, to enact an effective peace plan that brings the warring parties—primarily Ansar Allah (also known as the Houthi movement) and forces backing President ‘Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi—to the negotiating table.
Unfortunately, the US has also repeatedly undermined these diplomatic efforts by perpetuating violence in the country. US support for Saudi-led coalition airstrikes, which extends to refueling bombers mid-flight and other logistical and intelligence support, has contributed to the killing of civilians and indiscriminate targeting of civilian infrastructure. Furthermore, US counterterrorism operations in the country lean heavily on “kinetic” strikes and do little to address the root causes of violent extremism. Continued short-term thinking in US counterterrorism strategy, coupled with ongoing coalition airstrikes, has given al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) more room to operate in the country, ultimately eroding US national security interests in the region.
America’s Role in Yemen assesses US policy in four key areas: diplomatic engagement, military intervention, humanitarian assistance, and security and counterterrorism. Specific recommendations accompany each section, and the report concludes with the YPP’s outline for enabling a lasting peace in Yemen, emphasizing demilitarization, significant international support for reconstruction, and a post-war process of transitional justice, disarmament, and security sector reform. The report and its recommendations will form the basis of YPP’s advocacy efforts in 2017 and beyond, as the organization works to promote a US-Yemen relationship that protects Yemeni human rights, democratic governance reform, and US national security interests in the Arabian Peninsula.