After what Washington announced on Friday about was cutting the number of troops and air defense units deployed to the Middle East, including Patriot batteries and an anti-missile system, called THAAD, from Saudi Arabia, The Riyadh-led coalition said Sunday that downsizing of US military assets in Saudi Arabia will not affect its defense capabilities.
“This will not affect the Saudi air defenses,” coalition spokesman Turki Al-Maliki told reporters.
“We have a strong understanding with… our allies about the threat in the region. We do have the capability to defend our country.”
The US drawdown comes as President Joe Biden’s administration seeks to ease tensions with Iran, after they heated up in 2019 under his predecessor Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Tehran.
In April, Greece said it would lend a Patriot battery to Saudi Arabia to protect its critical energy infrastructure.
Saudi air defenses intercepted a total of 17 Houthi drones on Saturday, the highest in a single day since the conflict began, Al-Maliki said.
Earlier this month, a bomb-laden drone launched by the Houthis crashed into a girls’ school in southern Asir province, Saudi state media said.
No injuries were reported in the strike.
But during a media tour Sunday of the school, whose shrapnel-scarred roof was littered with glass, ball bearings and twisted metal, officials said some terrified parents were refusing to send their children to attend classes.
Saudi Arabia “can’t cover the entire country with Patriots,” a local official said.
“There is no military target here… it’s clear the Houthis are deliberately hitting civilians.”
The escalation comes as a diplomatic push by the United Nations, the United States and regional countries to secure a cease-fire in Yemen after more than six years of devastating conflict have failed.