Nov. 10 (UPI) -- The U.S. is ending its practice of supplying Saudi aircraft with inflight fuel for the war the country is helping wage in neighboring Yemen.
"We support the decision by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, after consultations with the U.S. Government, to use the Coalition's own military capabilities to conduct inflight refueling in support of its operations in Yemen," Mattis said.
The U.S. fueling aid has come under increased scrutiny following the death of Saudi critic and journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, was last seen entering a Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, in early October. Istanbul chief prosecutor Irfan Fidan said in late October a Saudi "hit team" dismembered Khashoggi with a bone saw.
The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen also drew international ire in August when a coalition airstrike hit a school bus in northern Yemen and killed at least 50 people, including many children.
Mattis said the U.S. is still seeking a resolution to the Yemeni civil war, which has pitted the Saudi-backed Yemeni government against Houthi rebels who are aligned with Iran since 2015. Yemen is also weathering a public health crisis, as the United Nations' World Food Program said this week that half the country's population is near starvation.
"The U.S. and the Coalition are planning to collaborate on building up legitimate Yemeni forces to defend the Yemeni people, secure their country's borders, and contribute to counter Al Qaeda and ISIS efforts in Yemen and the region," Mattis said. "The U.S. will also continue working with the Coalition and Yemen to minimize civilian casualties and expand urgent humanitarian efforts throughout the country."