Washington, Apr 3: The US will provide aerial refuelling for a Saudi-led campaign in Yemen but is not passing on precise information for air raids, a senior military official has said.
The US military's Central Command (CENTCOM) has been given the green light to deploy refuelling tankers for the Saudis and their Gulf partners in the operation, though the refuelling will take place outside of Yemen's airspace, the official told reporters yesterday.
"We have given CENTCOM the authority to do tanking," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Officials had said previously Washington was considering offering refuelling assistance as well as airborne early warning and control aircraft (AWACs).
The Saudis were expected to reimburse Washington for the refuelling flights, which have not yet started, officials said.
President Barack Obama's administration had earlier promised intelligence and logistical support for the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, where Iran-backed Huthi rebels have advanced deep into the southern city of Aden.
The US was delivering intelligence from surveillance satellites and aircraft to help the Saudis monitor their border and to track the location of Huthi rebel forces as they push south, the official said.
The intelligence was helping create "a battlefield picture" of where the Huthis were deployed and to enable the Saudi-led aircraft to avoid causing civilian casualties, the official said.
"We're helping the Saudis understand what's happening on their border," the official said. "They're looking for evidence of any Huthi ground incursions."
The Huthis are "poised above Aden and we're trying to help the Saudis build a picture of that," the official said. "But we're not providing them with targeting information."
Rights groups have voiced dismay at accounts of civilian casualties from the air raids. Dozens were killed in an air strike on a camp for displaced people and in a raid that struck a dairy.
Officials in Washington insist the US is not relaying coordinates for particular strikes but only broader intelligence.