Despite publicly stating that they are trying to stay out of the Saudi Arabia – Yemen conflict, the Pentagon is expanding their presence by sending Green Berets to help allied Saudi forces target and knock out Houthi missile sites.

Late in 2017, a team of Special Forces soldiers deployed to Saudi Arabia to aid the targeting of Houthi missile sites. The Houthi rebels are closely allied with Iran.

Details of the Green Beret operation, which has not been previously disclosed, were provided to The New York Times by U.S. officials and European diplomats.

They appear to contradict Pentagon statements that U.S. military assistance to the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen is limited to aircraft refueling, logistics and general intelligence sharing.

There is no indication that the U.S. commandos have crossed into Yemen as part of the mission.

But sending U.S. ground forces to the border is a marked escalation of Western assistance to target Houthi fighters who are deep in Yemen.

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Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., a member of the Armed Services Committee, on Thursday called the Green Berets mission a “purposeful blurring of lines between train-and-equip missions and combat.” He cited the report in The New York Times and called for a new congressional vote on the authorization for the use of military force, war-powers legislation used by three successive presidents in conflict zones around the world.

Beyond its years as a base for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen has been convulsed by civil strife since 2014, when the Shiite Muslim rebels from the country’s north stormed the capital, Sanaa. The Houthis, who are aligned with Iran, ousted the government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, the main U.S. counterterrorism partner in Yemen.

In 2015, a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia began bombing the Houthis, who have responded by firing missiles into the kingdom. Yet there is no evidence that the Houthis directly threaten the United States; they are a group with no operations outside Yemen and have not been classified by the U.S. government as a terrorist group.

The Green Berets, the Army’s Special Forces, deployed to the border in December, weeks after a ballistic missile fired from Yemen sailed close to Riyadh. The Saudi military said it intercepted the missile over the city’s international airport, a claim that was cast in doubt by an analysis of photos and videos of the strike. But it was enough for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to renew a long-standing request that the United States send troops to help the kingdom combat the Houthi threat.

The commander of the US Central Command, General Joseph Votel told Congress in March that the U.S. was authorized to help the Saudis protect their border through intelligence sharing, logistics support and through military advice. Just a few weeks ago the Armed Services Committee in the Senate was briefed that there are 50 U.S. personnel in Saudi Arabia and they are “largely helping on the ballistic-missile threat.”

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File Photo Wikipedia of a Special Forces soldier targeting insurgents