Riyadh, Aug 20: The US military has slashed the number of intelligence advisors directly supporting the Saudi-led coalition's air war in Yemen, the US Navy said on Saturday (Aug 20).
The reassignment of personnel, around June, occurred because "there was not the same sort of requests coming in for assistance" from the Saudis, Fifth Fleet spokesman Lieutenant Ian McConnaughey told AFP from Bahrain.
Saudi Arabia has faced repeated criticism from rights groups over civilian casualties in its 17-month-long campaign against rebels in Yemen.
US officials have regularly urged their major Middle East ally to avoid harming non-combatants in Yemen.
But McConnaughey said the US reassignment of personnel does not affect their ability to support the Saudis and is a more efficient allocation of resources.
"That's the main reason behind it, and it's based on the amount of requests that we receive from the Saudis."
He said the United States now has "a limited number, less than five, that are working directly on the advisory cell that we have here."
That number is down from about 45, in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, at its peak. The joint cell was established around the start of coalition operations in March last year, McConnaughey said.
The Arab coalition began air raids and later sent in ground forces to support the internationally recognised government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi after Houthi rebels and their allies overran much of Yemen.
Saudi Arabia says the rebels are backed by its Shiite regional rival Iran.
The coalition has told AFP that it uses highly accurate las er and GPS-guided weapons, many of them supplied by the US, and that it verifies targets many times in order to avoid civilian casualties.
Yet allegations of strikes on civilian facilities have continued. Paris-based Doctors Without Borders (MSF) on Thursday accused the coalition of "indiscriminate bombings" and said it had lost confidence in the alliance's ability to prevent fatal attacks on its facilities.
MSF decided to withdraw staff from six hospitals after 19 people died in an air strike Monday on an MSF-supported hospital in Yemen's rebel-held northern province of Hajja.
That was the fourth and deadliest attack yet on an MSF facility during the war, the charity said.
US State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau expressed deep concern after reports of the hospital strike.