President Biden will announce an end to US support for Saudi Arabia’s offensive operations in Yemen during a foreign policy speech on Thursday afternoon, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said.
Sullivan said President Biden “is going to announce an end to American support for offensive operations in Yemen. That is a promise he made on the campaign that he will be following through on. But he will go further than that, he will talk about the US taking a more active and engaged role in the diplomacy to bring an end to the conflict in Yemen, and that will include the naming of a special envoy.”
Biden is expected to name Timothy Lenderking, a veteran diplomat, as US envoy to Yemen who will work to end the conflict between the Saudis and the Houthis. The president will make the announcements as part of a broader foreign policy speech.
While announcing Biden’s plan, Sullivan said it would not include US operations against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). “It does not extend to actions against AQAP,” he said. “It extends to the types of offensive operations that have perpetuated a civil war in Yemen that has led to a humanitarian crisis.”
Framing the move as an end to support for “offensive” operations could give the US some wiggle room to continue some support for the Saudi-led coalition. And since the coalition is more capable now than it was in 2015, when the Obama administration first backed the Saudis in Yemen, operations could still continue.
Last week, the administration halted planned arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, although US officials framed it as a standard procedure for a new administration. Biden has yet to reverse the terror designation of Yemen’s Houthis, although the US did allow transactions with the group to continue through February 26th. The UN is still calling for a full reversal of the designation, warning of the mass famine it will cause.