The U.S. Air Force has been training Saudi-led coalition personnel from the United Arab Emirates for aerial combat in Yemen, Yahoo News reported late Wednesday, citing newly obtained official documents.
A spokesman and an official from U.S. Central Command told Yahoo News the military did not "conduct exercises with members of the [coalition] to prepare for combat operations in Yemen".
Similar remarks were made last month by Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stressing that the U.S. is "not a participant in the civil war in Yemen, nor are we supporting one side or the other".
But the documents, which were obtained by Yahoo News through the Freedom of Information Act, tell another story.
According to one of the documents from U.S. Air Forces Central Command from December 2017, the U.S. “escorted 6 UAE F-16s to RED FLAG; assisted 150 airmen in challenging exercise to prepare for combat ops in Yemen".
Support from the U.S. Air Force’s Air Warfare Center at al-Dhafra Air Base near Abu Dhabi also helped advance the Gulf state's F-16 fighter jet program.
"Unit fighter personnel advanced the UAE’s F-16 fighter pilot training program; 3 pilots flew 243 instructor sorties/323 hrs that created 4 new instructors & 29 combat wingmen who immediately deployed for combat operations in Yemen," the document said.
In 2015, a Saudi-led coalition, including the UAE, launched a campaign into Yemen after Houthi rebels overran much of the country and took over the capital, Sanaa. With U.S. support, the coalition launched a devastating air campaign aimed at rolling back Houthi gains.
The violence has devastated Yemen’s infrastructure, including its health and sanitation systems, prompting the UN to describe the situation as one of the worst humanitarian disasters of modern times.
The Senate passed a resolution last month to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen in a rebuke to Saudi Arabia, a long-time American ally. However, the bill was unable to pass in the House of Representatives due to a provision submitted a day earlier.