Washington—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, this week demanded answers from the Trump Administration on reports that U.S. military equipment ended up in the hands of secessionist forces in Yemen. In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Engel and Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and International Terrorism Chairman Ted Deutch called for an urgent briefing on the matter, expressing concern that militant extremist groups are exploiting unrest in southern Yemen.

“The Trump Administration must provide answers for how U.S. weapons have wound up in the hands of Yemeni secessionist forces and ISIS terrorist fighters. We will not rest until we have transparency and accountability for this fiasco,” said Chairman Engel.  

A copy of the signed letter can be accessed here.

The letter was also signed by House Foreign Affairs Committee members Representatives Lieu, Cicilline, Wild, Espillat, Omar, Keating, Sires, Gonzalez, Titus, Trone, and Bera. 

Dear Secretary Pompeo and Secretary Esper:

We write to express serious concern about reports that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) provided U.S.-origin military equipment to secessionist forces in Yemen and that the so-called Islamic State is exploiting unrest in southern Yemen.  We request an urgent briefing on all details surrounding these allegations.

According to a CNN investigation, which aired on October 18, 2019, the UAE provided U.S.-produced Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs) to the Southern Transitional Council (STC), a collection of secessionist forces, in their recent conflict against the internationally recognized government of Yemen.

The STC campaign in southern Yemen greatly destabilized the region, a situation that has benefited the local Islamic State affiliate, which recently launched its first successful attack in Aden in more than a year.  This development is worrying given the significant U.S. counterterrorism effort in Yemen and concerns about the group’s resurgence in Syria and Iraq.

On February 26, Chairman Engel led a letter to Secretary Pompeo and former Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan to express deep concern over reports that the UAE and Saudi Arabia transferred U.S.-origin military equipment and weapons to al-Qaeda-linked terrorist groups in Yemen in direct violation of existing arms agreements with the United States.

The MRAPs reportedly provided to the STC and the equipment previously provided to al-Qaeda linked groups are allegedly part of the same weapons deal with the UAE.  This arms sale included an end user agreement that certified the UAE as the final user of the weaponry.  New reports of unauthorized Emirati transfers of U.S.-made equipment raise major concerns about the efficacy of current end-use monitoring agreements with the UAE.

We request an urgent briefing from you on the reported unauthorized transfer of U.S.-origin weapons and equipment, including an update on any current investigations by the Department of Defense and/or the Department of State, the status of the Islamic State in Yemen, any steps the United States is taking in response to these allegations, and how bilateral agreements and end-use monitoring will improve in the future.