Why are American Troops in the Yemen war?

NY Times,
May 3, 2018

Pentagon and the Trump administration apparently have misled Americans about
growing military involvement in a war in Yemen that we should have nothing to
do with.
inspecting the damage from airstrikes in the city of Saada in January.CreditAgence
France-Presse — Getty Images


In the
latest expansion of America’s secret wars, about a dozen Army commandos have
been on Saudi Arabia’s border with Yemen since late last year, according to an
exclusive report by The Times. The commandos are helping to locate and
destroy missiles and launch sites used by indigenous Houthi rebels in Yemen to
attack Saudi cities.
involvement puts the lie to Pentagon statements that American military aid to
the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen is limited to aircraft refueling, logistics and
intelligence, and is not related to combat.
senators at a hearing in March demanded to know whether American troops were at
risk of entering hostilities with the Houthis, Gen. Joseph Votel, head of the
Central Command, assured them, “We’re not parties to this conflict.”
In at
least 14 countries, American troops are fighting extremist groups that are
professed enemies of the United States or are connected, sometimes quite
tenuously, to such militants. The Houthis pose no such threat to the United
States. But they are backed by Iran, so the commandos’ deployment increases the
risk that the United States could come into direct conflict with that country,
a target of increasing ire from the administration, the Saudis and Israelis.
significant military decisions require public debate to force presidents and
their generals to justify their decisions and be held accountable for the
consequences. But checks and balances have eroded since Sept. 11, 2001, as
ordinary Americans became indifferent to the country’s endless wars against
terrorists and Congress largely abdicated its constitutional role to share
responsibility with the president for sending troops into battle.
United States initially deployed troops to Yemen to fight Al Qaeda’s forces
there, under post-Sept. 11 congressional authorization measures. But Congress never specifically approved military involvement in the
Saudi-Houthi civil war.
Trump, who has broadened the authority of commanders to make some war-fighting
decisions independent of the White House, rarely speaks about military
operations publicly and has not articulated an overarching strategy for what
the worldwide antiterrorism campaign is intended to achieve and how long it
will last.
Saudis’ brutal campaign in Yemen has created one of the world’s worst
humanitarian crises, with at least eight million people on the brink of famine,
one million suspected of being infected with cholera and two million displaced
from their homes. Legal and human rights experts say the killing of thousands
of civilians and the humanitarian aid deprivations, most blamed on Saudi Arabia,
could be war crimes in which the United States would be complicit.
The war
began in 2014 when Houthi rebels and forces loyal to former President Ali
Abdullah Saleh took control of the capital, Sana, and much of the rest of the
country. In 2015, a Saudi-led coalition, with President Barack Obama’s backing,
launched blistering attacks, including thousands of airstrikes, against the
Houthi-Saleh forces in support of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
While the
war is effectively stalemated, Saudi Arabia’s rising new leader, Crown Prince
Mohammed bin Salman, seems committed to a military victory despite the horrors
caused by the fighting. He has been emboldened by Mr. Trump, who has been
willing to sell the kingdom almost any new military hardware it wants.
As the
Houthi missiles attest, Saudi Arabia is less secure now than when it began its
air campaign three years ago. Only a peace agreement is likely to bring the
fighting and the killings to an end.
neither Prince Mohammed nor Mr. Trump seem seriously interested, the United
is planning to put forward a new proposal to restart peace
negotiations. Congress could improve the chance of success by cutting off
military aid to Saudi Arabia and voting to bar the use of American troops
against the Houthis in Yemen.