WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden on Thursday announced the end of US support for offensive operations in Yemen and appointed a new envoy to oversee the nation's diplomatic mission to end the civil war there. This is part of a broader foreign policy address that highlights greater US engagement in the world.
"This war has to end," said Biden during his first foreign policy address as president. "We are ending all American support for offensive operations in the Yemen war, including arms sales."
"At the same time, Saudi Arabia is exposed to missile attacks, UAV strikes and other threats from Iranian forces in several countries," Biden said. "We will continue to help Saudi Arabia defend its sovereignty, territorial integrity and people."
The President appointed Tim Lenderking, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iran, Iraq and Regional Multilateral Affairs to oversee the US diplomatic mission to end the war in Yemen.
"I have asked my Middle East team to ensure our support for the United Nations initiative to impose a ceasefire, open humanitarian channels and restore long-dormant peace talks," said Biden.
"Tim's diplomacy is strengthened by USAID, which ensures that humanitarian aid reaches the Yemeni people, who are suffering from unbearable devastation," said Biden.
The US will continue to target al-Qaeda
Biden's policy of ending support for offensive operations, however, will not extend to US military action against al-Qaeda’s subsidiary known as AQAP in the region.
"It does not extend to measures against AQAP, which we are taking to protect the homeland and American interests in the region, as well as our allies and partners," National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters at a press conference at the White House earlier Thursday.
"It extends to the types of offensive operations that perpetuated a civil war in Yemen that has turned into a humanitarian crisis," Sullivan said.
The US has informed Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates of its decision, Sullivan said.
He added that the Biden government has stopped selling precision-guided ammunition to Saudi Arabia in order to assess possible human rights violations.
The civil war in Yemen escalated in 2014 when the Houthi forces, allied with former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, took over the country's capital.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been carrying out attacks against the Houthis in Yemen since March 2015. The Saudi-led intervention in Yemen was previously supported by the administration of former President Donald Trump.
Trump vetoed a measure in 2019 aimed at ending U.S. military aid and engagement in Yemen. At the time, Trump said the Congressional resolution was "unnecessary" and "threatened the lives of American citizens and courageous service members now and in the future."
The legislature, who backed the measure, criticized Saudi Arabia for a series of bombing attacks that contributed to the civil death in Yemen.
The United Nations previously said that the ongoing armed conflict in Yemen has caused the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. The United States provided more than $ 630 million in humanitarian aid to Yemen in fiscal 2020, according to the State Department.
– CNBC's Christian Nunley contributed to this report from Virginia.