Gen. Votel: Pentagon Must Examine Whether US Arms in Yemen Sent to al-Qaeda

Saudi-led coalition includes a number of Islamist factions in Yemen

Speaking to Senators on Tuesday, Centcom Commander Gen. Joseph Votel said that the US needs to “look more closely” at reports that arms sent to Yemen to back the Saudi invasion ended up going to al-Qaeda and other Islamist factions.

The US gave the arms to the Saudi-led coalition for the protracted ground war in Yemen. They neglected to note that this Saudi coalition was a series of Sunni Arab states looking to oust a Shi’ite political movement in Yemen, and unsurprisingly had domestic allies that included very hardline Sunni groups, including al-Qaeda and other Salafist Islamists.

Exactly as happened in Syria, the US started arming the side they wanted to back, and it never occurred to them that the arms would be shared around to the various other allies within that coalition, including groups the US definitely wouldn’t be allowed to directly arm.

As with many other wars in the region, US-made military vehicles have been lost from coalition custody, and US-made arms are readily available on the black market. The State Department downplayed this, saying they expect countries to get US authorization before transferring the arms.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.