Yemen conflict: Pentagon backs Saudi decision to refuel aircraft on its own

Washington: US Secretary of Defence James Mattis announced the Pentagon backed Saudi Arabia’s decision to use the Saudi-led coalition’s own military capabilities to refuel aircraft engaged in Yemen. “We support the decision by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, after consultations with the US government, to use the coalition’s own military capabilities to conduct inflight refuelling in support of its operations in Yemen,” Mattis said in a statement released on Friday night.

Saudi Arabia has decided to request an end to US aerial refuelling for its operations in Yemen since the Kingdom can now manage this by itself, a statement released by Saudi Arabia earlier in the day said. The Saudi statement came hours after the US media reported that the Trump administration had decided to end the air refuelling flights, a decision originally expected to be announced in the coming days, reports Xinhua news agency.

The Saudi move came amid an ongoing investigation on the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which has stirred international society and drawn criticism from US lawmakers who threatened to take action next week over the refuelling operations.Saudi Arabia is leading an Arab military coalition that intervened in Yemen in March 2015 to support the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi after Houthi rebels forced him into exile. The Pentagon was refuelling about 20% of coalition planes flying sorties over Yemen.

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