Enduring U.S. Support for Saudi-Led Operations in Yemen

Enduring U.S. Support for War in Yemen, Afghanistan Drawdown 25% Complete, Israel Arms Sales to Proceed and more



June 1, 2021

Enduring U.S. Support for Saudi-Led Operations in Yemen

Security Assistance Monitor, May 2021

Four months after the Biden Administration announced an end to U.S. support for offensive operations in Yemen, a new brief from the Security Assistance monitor examines what assistance has endured the change in policy.

Though the U.S. has ended some forms of support, including targeting assistance and air-to-air refueling for Saudi-coalition warplanes, the U.S. continues to provide essential services to Riyadh’s air force, including maintenance contracts that keep Saudi planes in the air. Support to the Saudi blockade, a driving factor in the near famine-like conditions in the country, is also of serious concern. 

The support undercuts fervent efforts to reduce violence in Yemen, which has escalated in recent weeks, particularly in the strategically important province of Marib. The situation remains especially dire for civilians, who face not only indiscriminate attacks, but also severe shortages of food, medicine, and other essential goods. 

In addition to the Issue Brief, SAM has also published a timeline of U.S. support to the Saudi coalition fighting in Yemen, documenting the key events that have defined the ebb and flow of U.S. policy towards the conflict. 

To read the issue brief, click here, and for the detailed timeline, click here

Security Assistance News & Research Roundup

News & Blog Posts

US Completes Up to 25% of Afghan Withdrawal

Voice of America, May 25

According to U.S. Central Command, the United States has already withdrawn an estimated 16-25% of its troops from Afghanistan ahead of the September 11 deadline that President Biden set. 

Sanders drops bid to block Biden’s Israel arms sale

The Hill, May 26

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is dropping his bid to block a $735 million arms sale to Israel, capping off the long-shot Senate effort after being informed by the State Department that the sale had already been approved. 

Al-Monitor, May 22

As Lebanon’s security forces face financial collapse, and the country remains in political turmoil, the United States is stepping in to offer an additional $15 million in military aid in 2021 alongside a proposal to increase the Lebanese army’s ‘capability’ over the next five years. The U.S. has already provided approximately $1.8 billion in arms sales and defense equipment to Lebanon, as well as $78 million worth of military electronics, munitions, and more.

Financial Times, May 24

The European Peace Facility (EPC), the European Union’s €5 billion project that seeks to project “hard power” to influence international conflicts and help partner countries address their security challenges, is receiving criticism for its plan to arm friendly governments in Africa and elsewhere. 

Foreign Policy, May 19

The outbreak of protests in Colombia, primarily in the city of Cali, have prompted several U.S. politicians, academics, and NGOs to urge Washington to halt funding for the Colombian armed forces through the use of the Leahy Law. The Law, which prohibits the U.S. government from funding foreign armed groups that commit human rights violations, was originally introduced in 1997 in an effort to control U.S. military aid to Colombia.

Business Standard, May 25

The Biden administration will continue withholding security assistance to Pakistan, maintaining a decision that was made under former President Donald J. Trump. “I will not get into speculating one way or another about if it will change going forward,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby announced during a news conference.

Today News Africa, May 26

U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price announced on May 26 that the United States has suspended security assistance to Mali’s Security and Defense Forces following the detention of civilian leaders of Mali’s transition government. 

U.S. Arms Deal to the UAE is Once Again Uncertain

WSJ, May 25

A multi-billion dollar arms deal to the United Arab Emirates was facilitated by the Trump administration in the latter half of his presidency. The deal relied on a controversial emergency provision to expedite the process and sidestep congressional review. Some expected the Biden administration to halt the deal upon taking office, however, in April 2021 the deal was approved. Now, amid rising concerns about Chinese relations with the UAE, the deal is in question. 


Research, Analysis, and Opinion  


To Counter Russia in Africa, America Should Rethink its Own Role

War on the Rocks, May 20

In his latest piece for War on the Rocks, John Lechner critiques U.S. policy on security assistance to African countries. He stresses the importance of building inclusive and accountable security forces rather than offering weapons to authoritarian governments. As it stands, Lechner argues, the United States is unable to win both the great power competition with Russia in Africa and the “War on Terror” unless strategic changes are made.


To Advance its Own Interests, Turkey Should Now Help Stabilize Libya

War on the Rocks, May 24

To advance its interests and achieve its goals, Turkey should focus on stabilizing Libya by tackling the country’s fragmented security environment and bolstering state capacity, argues Emadeddin Badi. Turkey’s previous provisions of security assistance to Libya failed to “fundamentally alter the security landscape,” he says, revealing how efforts to aid the state should be seen as a long-term state-building exercise.

Missile Defense is Not a Substitute for Arms Control

War on the Rocks, May 25

U.S. policymakers should not stake their nuclear policy on missile defense, write John Tierney and Samuel Hickey, who argue that there should instead be a greater emphasis on the need for mutual arms control, beginning with the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START.

Data Fact of the Week:

Top U.S. Arms Sales Notifications for Saudi Arabia Since 2010

The graphic above illustrates the largest four foreign military sales offers made to Saudi Arabia since 2010. 

In February, the Biden Administration announced it was suspending arms sales to Saudi Arabia, as well as other support to offensive operations in Yemen. For more information on U.S. support to the Saudi-led war in Yemen, take a look at our latest brief

From The U.S. Government 

Defense Department



Upcoming Congressional Hearings


Upcoming Events (All Online)

6/01: A New Direction? German Foreign and Security Policy and the 2021 Bundestag Election, hosted by Georgetown University
6/01: President Joe Biden’s first defense budget request, hosted by AEI
6/01: How Will the EU Navigate U.S.-China Tensions?, hosted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
6/01: The Future of US-Lebanon Defense and Security Cooperation, hosted by the Middle East Institute
6/01: A Conversation with Ambassador Joseph Cella, hosted by the Hudson Institute
6/02: Developing a World Class Indian Military, hosted by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
6/02: Renewing Commitments on Small Arms and Light Weapons Issues, hosted by the Stimson Center
6/02: Hypersonic Strike and Defense, hosted by CSIS
6/03: North Korea Beyond the Six Parties: Examining Ties with Central Asia, Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa, hosted by the Stimson Center
6/03: Coordinating International Support for Lebanon: A Conversation with Dr. Najat Rochdi of UNSCOL, hosted by the Middle East Institute
6/03: Challenging the Norms of Warfare: Historical Perspectives from Yemen and Iraq, hosted by the Wilson Center
6/03: Turkish-Russian competition in Ukraine and the Caucasus, hosted by the Atlantic Council
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