The United States military is planning to boost its aid to Saudi Arabia in its airstrikes against rebel forces in Yemen by providing more intelligence, bombs and helping refuel planes, U.S. officials said Friday, according to media reports. The announcement comes as the Saudi Arabia-led coalition took complete control of the Yemeni airspace after two days of airstrikes against Houthi rebels, who have captured the country’s capital Sanaa and government.
Saudi leaders reacted to the support offered by the U.S. and said they were “very pleased” with the move. Al-Jubeir, the Saudi ambassador in the U.S., said after meeting officials from the U.S. Department of State that Washington has been very supportive of the operation politically and logistically, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
Jubeir said that the goal of the Saudi-led mission was to support Yemen’s legitimate government and to protect the country’s residents from heavy weapons and missiles "controlling, dominating and damaging Yemen and its people," the AP reported.
Saudi officials reportedly said they do not plan to set up ground troops, but were coordinating with Yemeni forces who are working toward returning power to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. The airstrikes have led to worries that Yemen's internal conflict could lead to a fight for regional supremacy between Sunni countries like Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran and its allies, which support the Houthis, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Yemen, which has been home to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has witnessed a deteriorating security situation and the U.S. is concerned that militant groups might take over the country's leadership to fill the void. Most recently, on March 20, three bombs reportedly claimed by an ISIS affiliate killed more than 150 people in Yemen. The attack is the largest toll for a single coordinated attack in Yemen’s history, the Journal reported.