In the wake of a U.S.-backed bombing last week that killed dozens of children on a school bus in north Yemen, Sen. Elizabeth Warren is demanding answers about how U.S. military advisers support and oversee the Saudi and UAE bombing campaign in Yemen.
Warren sent a letter on Tuesday to Gen. Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command and top commander for U.S. forces in the Middle East, requesting that he clarify past congressional testimony about the U.S. role in the Yemen war. Warren’s letter referenced an article by The Intercept about an airstrike in May, based on a U.S. intelligence report that recounts in detail, minute by minute, how the strike unfolded and American munitions were used.
Votel has previously suggested that the U.S. has little knowledge about how Saudi Arabia and the UAE use American weapons, and does not track the aircraft missions that the U.S. helps refuel. During a congressional hearing in March, Warren asked Votel whether CENTCOM tracks what aircraft do after the U.S. refuels them. He responded, “Senator, we do not.” Votel also denied knowing whether U.S.-produced munitions were used in specific strikes when the media has reported on civilian deaths.
However, earlier this month The Intercept published a detailed article about a coalition airstrike in May, which targeted a site in Yemen’s Northern Saada governorate where a dozen family members slept in tents; the bomb happened to miss the tents, so the civilians survived. The article quoted an intelligence report that includes “what appear to be comments from an American intelligence analyst” who closely supervised the strike from a coalition command center in Riyadh, suggesting that U.S. military observers have detailed information about how strikes unfold.
Eric Eikenberry, an advocacy officer for the U.S.-based Yemen Peace Project, told The Intercept that the existence of an intelligence report shows that coalition airstrikes are more closely supervised than Votel had indicated. “When it comes to Yemen, the priorities of General Votel and the rest of the administration are obscene,” he wrote in an email. “We knew that the United States was providing the fuel, weapons, and intelligence for coalition strikes, and now we know that the U.S. is perfectly capable of assessing strikes on civilian targets that use U.S.