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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

US elite forces secretly helping Saudis combat Houthi missile operations in Yemen

American assistance was previously known to be limited to logistics and intelligence-sharing

People check the damage after debris from ballistic missiles fired by Yemen's Houthi militia fell onto a house in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia March 26, 2018. Faisal Al Nasser / Reuters
People check the damage after debris from ballistic missiles fired by Yemen's Houthi militia fell onto a house in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia March 26, 2018. Faisal Al Nasser / Reuters

American special forces are helping Saudi Arabia in their battle against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, it has been revealed.

A team of a dozen Green Berets have been stationed on the Saudi border with Yemen since late last year, European diplomats and US officials told the New York Times.

They have been tasked with helping their Saudi counterparts to locate and destroy the rebels' missile caches and the sites from which they are launching missiles at the Saudi capital, Riyadh, and other cities in the Gulf kingdom.

The stationing of the special forces was not declared by the US military, pointing to another extension of the US' shadow war against extremist factions in the Middle East.

The Pentagon's "limited non-combat support, such as intelligence sharing, focuses on assisting our partners in securing their borders from cross-border attacks from the Houthis," military spokesman Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway told AFP news agency.

A team of US intelligence experts are also working with the Saudi military in the southern city of Najran, the Times reported.

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It remains unclear if the commandos have entered into Yemeni territory.

The Yemeni civil war, which began in March 2015 after Houthi rebels overran Sanaa and ousted the government from the capital, has resulted in the deaths of more than 10,000 people and what the UN has called the worst humanitarian disaster in the world.

Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition of Gulf and Arab states seeking to reinstate the internationally-recognised government in the areas it lost to the Houthis. They control much of the country's north, including the key Red Sea port of Hodeidah.

US President Donald Trump has sought closer ties with the Saudi royal family, hosting Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Washington and making Riyadh his first foreign pit-stop after his January 2017 inauguration.

The US military is involved in Yemen in other ways, too, conducting special forces missions and drone operations against ISIS and Al-Qaeda, where the latter has its most powerful wing, known as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

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