Spurred by recent battlefield gains, the Pentagon is making plans to send U.S. military aircraft to Yemen for the first time to help move government troops and supplies more quickly into battle against Islamic militants, U.S. officials said.
Senior U.S. commanders responsible for the Middle East argue that deploying American cargo aircraft could be crucial to carrying on a U.S.-backed offensive that has driven members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and allied groups out of several cities and towns.
“This wasn’t an American idea. It was a Yemeni idea and one worth considering given our common fight against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” said a U.S. official, who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity because the plan is not public. “Nothing’s been decided, and it may take some time before the Yemenis themselves sort out whether they need this kind of support or not.”
The proposal does not have final White House approval yet and has prompted concern among officials in the White House, the State Department and even within the Pentagon. Militants who have targeted the U.S. are based in Yemen, which also is riven by regional and tribal differences, and skeptics fear the conflict is looking increasingly like a civil war.
Deploying aircraft would invite a backlash in the country and the wider Middle East, said administration officials critical of the idea.
“We have to be very mindful of the fact that there is a lot of attention being paid to the role of the United States in Yemen,” said another U.S. official. “We want it to be appropriate, and not something which is taking kind of a controlling role, if you will, in these activities. And that I think is where the concerns lie now.”
The plan, which could include providing Yemen’s troops with vehicles and other supplies, would still limit the U.S. to a support role, which White House officials have insisted is as far as President Obama will go.
“If American aircraft were ferrying Yemeni government troops, it would be evident that we were involved in a substantial way,” the official said. “It invites a lot of attention that would not be helpful.”
Read More: LA Times
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