June 26, 2022

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GAO: US fails to track whether weapons used against Yemeni civilians

GAO: US fails to track whether weapons used against Yemeni civilians

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WASHINGTON – The Pentagon and State Department failed to investigate whether the Saudi-led coalition used US military support to carry out any of the repeated air strikes and other attacks that allegedly killed civilians. In YemenAccording to a US government report released on Wednesday.

Criticism of civilian casualties in Saudi-led coalition airstrikes that sometimes hit wedding parties, funerals, hospitals and other gatherings of civilians has withheld U.S. arms sales and other forms of military support to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates since the two launched a war in the country. Yemen in 2015.

The seven-year-old war has failed in its goal of driving out the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels who have taken control of the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, and most of northern Yemen. Under the mediation of the United States, the United Nations and other internationals, all sides to the conflict have joined what US officials describe as a promising but fragile truce in the spring and summer.

The publication of the critical report by the Government Accountability Office comes the day after the White House confirmed that President Joe Biden is planning July trip to Saudi Arabia In an effort to strengthen relations with the oil-producing kingdom.

High oil and gasoline prices are helping drive inflation in the United States and threatening the prospects of Democrats in Biden and Biden himself in the upcoming elections. Israel and other allies have also urged the US president to mend relations with the Saudis, and Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is in the interest of regional security.

Biden took office condemnation of Saudi Arabia On the killing of non-combatants in Yemen and the killing of a journalist based in the United States in 2018 Jamal Khashoggi. US intelligence agencies say Prince Mohammed likely ordered Khashoggi’s murder.

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Biden pledged early in his term that the United States would prevent any U.S. offensive military assistance to Saudi Arabia.

News organizations and rights groups cited repeated civilian deaths blamed on coalition airstrikes, and UN investigators confirmed several accounts. The attacks include a 2018 coalition-led airstrike on a school bus that killed at least 26 children, according to Human Rights Watch.

The United States says it has trained Saudi forces to improve targeting and other best practices to minimize harm to innocent civilians.

The United Nations estimates that from March 2015 to August 2021, some 23,000 Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in Yemen killed or injured more than 18,000 civilians.

The Houthi rebels are also widely accused of violating their rights, including forcing children to fight and to make use of much-needed food and fuel for civilians. Yemen is by far the poorest country in the Arabian Peninsula. Aid groups and international organizations say the war has deepened significantly Food insecurity For millions of people out there.

The Government Accountability Office, an independent watchdog aimed at aiding government oversight, examined how successful the US government was in tracking any role that extensive US military assistance to its Gulf strategic partners, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, played in the killing of civilians.

Congress commissioned a report Wednesday from the Government Accountability Office last year.

The Government Accountability Office said the United States provided more than $54 billion in military support — from missiles and aircraft to maintenance and training — to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates from 2015 to 2021.

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The report said State Department officials told GAO investigators that they consider civilian harm and how equipment was used when evaluating US arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

In addition, (Department of Defense) and officials abroad said they have made some efforts to understand the extent to which US-origin defense materials have been used in Yemen.

“However, despite numerous reports that airstrikes and other attacks by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates caused severe harm to civilians in Yemen, the Ministry of Defense was not informed and the state could not provide evidence that it investigated any potential use incidents.” Unauthorized equipment transported to Saudi Arabia or the UAE,” GAO investigators said.

In a written response to GAO investigators, State Department auditor Jeffrey Montes disputed the GAO’s overall conclusion. Mounts wrote that the State Department has submitted documents for government oversight of possible US weapons involvement in attacks that killed civilians or hit civilian infrastructure.

But the Accountability Office investigators said documents provided by the State Department did not change their conclusion.

The report also quoted officials in the US Army Central Command as saying, “They do not know how security cooperation officials at the Ministry of Defense in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will obtain the information necessary to determine whether US-origin defense materials have been used in Yemen by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.” Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates against anything other than legitimate military objectives.

Outside the Saudi embassy on Wednesday, local government officials in Washington, DC, and human rights advocates in Saudi Arabia and Yemen unveiled a street sign that renamed the new building in front of the embassy as “Jamal Khashoggi Road.”

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Tawakkol Karman, a Nobel Peace Prize winner from Yemen, criticized Biden at a street party for planning to meet Prince Mohammed, widely known by his initials.

“When you meet Mohammed bin Salman, will this serve peace in Yemen?” Biden asked. “of course not.”

Asked Wednesday for comment, the State Department cited steps to reduce losses, but added that we “recognize that there is work to be done.” Spokesmen for the Saudi embassy and the Pentagon did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the GAO report.

The State Department has informed the Governmental Accountability Office of the steps it has taken to comply with Biden’s 2021 directive that the United States is providing only defensive support to Saudi Arabia, as opposed to materials that would help it fight its war in Yemen. This includes the State Department’s requirement for Saudi Arabia to use only new air-to-air missiles against cross-border air attacks, and not to hit ground targets, according to the report.

The State Department said it had “suspended” two more munitions sales for fear of harming civilians.

The version of the report released Wednesday withheld what the government says are classified material from the original, which has not been made public.

Jason Beer, director of the Office of Business and International Trade at the Government Accountability Office, said the material withheld consisted of “relatively little information” about the Pentagon’s advisory work and the State Department’s internal decision-making process.