US President Joe Biden has announced the United States is ending support for the Saudi-led military offensive in Yemen that has deepened suffering in the Arabian peninsula’s poorest country.
The Yemen reversal is one of a series of changes President Biden laid out on Thursday that he said would be part of a course correction for US foreign policy.
"The war has created a humanitarian and strategic catastrophe," President Biden told diplomats in his first visit to the State Department as leader.
"This war has to end."
The announcement on Yemen fulfils a campaign pledge.
The reversing of policy also comes as a rebuke to Saudi Arabia, a global oil giant and US strategic partner.
The ending of US support for the offensive will not affect any US operations against the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) group, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said.
President Biden also announced an end to "relevant" US arms sales but gave no immediate details on what that would mean.
The administration already said it was pausing some of the billions of dollars in arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia’s main partner in its Yemeni offensive.
The United Kingdom is the second-largest global defence exporter behind the United States of America, according to data released in 2020.
Chair of the Defence Select Committee Tobias Ellwood told Forces News: “The fact that the United States now so engaged, so willing to lean into this, it’s a major opportunity for Britain to stand with our closest security ally. We can’t do that unless we follow suit.
“We can’t be seen to be selling arms to Saudi Arabia and to the coalition when they’ve stopped. We need to follow suit and be with our United States friends.”
While withdrawing support for Saudi offensive operations in Yemen, the Biden administration said it intends to help the kingdom boost its defences against any further attacks from Yemen’s Houthis or outside adversaries.
The assurance is seen as part of an effort to persuade Saudi Arabia and other combatants to end the conflict overall.
WATCH: Chair of the Defence Select Committee Tobias Ellwood tells Forces News the UK must stand with the United States.
Saudi Arabia’s top officials made no immediate public response.
The Obama administration in 2015 gave its approval to Saudi Arabia leading a cross-border air campaign targeting the Houthi rebels, who had seized Sanaa and other territory and were sporadically launching missiles into Saudi Arabia.
US targeting assistance to Saudi Arabia’s command-and-control was supposed to minimise civilian casualties in airstrikes, but Saudi-led strikes have killed numerous Yemeni civilians.
Cover image: US President Joe Biden speaking in November 2020.