Congress must investigate military's use of humanitarian logistics networks in Yemen

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that Scott Darden, an American citizen who served as Yemen country coordinator for logistics firm Transoceanic Development, maintained secret ties to the United States military during his time in Yemen.

Darden, who was detained for several months by the Houthi militia in 2015, worked on behalf of the New Orleans-based company to manage shipments for humanitarian organizations including UNICEF and ICRC. He also oversaw Transoceanic’s offices in San’a, Aden, and al-Hudaydah. At the same time, he and his employer secretly worked with the American military to assist with logistics for Special Operations units.

The use of humanitarian aid work as a cover for military and intelligence operations jeopardizes aid organizations’ access to conflict zones. Although Transoceanic Development is a logistics firm, rather than an aid organization, its actions in Yemen raise serious concerns. Reaching Yemenis in need of assistance has long been a significant challenge for humanitarian agencies, and the US military’s use of contractors that also work with aid groups exacerbates that difficulty by reducing Yemeni actors’ trust in such organizations. The American armed forces are already involved in the Yemeni conflict through their backing of the Saudi-led coalition, which has obstructed humanitarian and commercial shipments into Yemen. The military’s relationship with Transoceanic could further undermine these vital relief efforts, as millions of lives hang in the balance.

The YPP calls upon Congress to prohibit the use of humanitarian cover for military and intelligence operations, and investigate the role of Transoceanic and similar logistics companies to ensure that arrangements like those uncovered by the New York Times do not violate US or international law, or jeopardize humanitarian assistance efforts in Yemen.