New federal procurement documents unearthed and reported by TYT show that the US Air Force is planning to train Saudi pilots on US soil, which would mark the first time since the US-Saudi coalition's bombing campaign began three years ago.
The government documents show the Air Force is seeking private contractors to train Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) personnel to be “conducted in the U.S. at contractor’s facility.” The solicitation deadline is listed for Sept. 24, which suggests the program will move forward at rapid pace, but doesn't indicate when the training will begin.
According to TYT Investigates, it appears the Pentagon is trying to belatedly show it's "taking action" in response to increased international publicity and humanitarian outcry in response to recent atrocities of its Saudi partners:
The Pentagon’s solicitation for training Saudi pilots, however, was posted on August 23, two weeks after the school bus bombing, the procurement records show. What’s more, the training will be for warplanes including the F-15 fighter jet, which the Saudis are using in Yemen.
The records even mention weapons-specific training, listing things like, “F-15S Weapons School Instructor Pilot” and “Air Battle Manager/Weapons School Weapons Director Instructor.”
Human rights groups have already weighed in on this latest revelation, as TYT reports further:
Informed about the training, Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director for Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division, told TYT, “At a time when even the Pentagon has threatened to cut military and intelligence [support] for Saudi’s disastrous campaign in Yemen, it’s disturbing that the Air Force is ratcheting up its relationship by training more Saudi pilots, however veiled by the use of contractors.”
Use of private contractors to do the Pentagon's dirty work has long been a tactic designed to introduce a layer of "plausible deniability" for future war crimes.
Here is a key part of the one of the federal procurement documents:
Many Americans have heard of the Saudi war in Yemen for the perhaps the first time in recent weeks due to headline driving-atrocities carried out by Saudi pilots, such as last month's attack on a school bus full of Yemeni children, which killed 40 children and wounded scores of others.
But more than a cursory glance of the headlines might also reveal for those just learning of the war which has raged since 2015: it's from the very start involved US intelligence and military personnel playing a central role in locating targets, facilitating logistics, and refueling Saudi coalition jets.
American leadership in the campaign is so key that it could more properly be called the US-Saudi war in Yemen.
When the US-Saudi coalition has taken out buses full of children, or entire wedding parties, or bombed hospitals, the Pentagon's "defense" of these actions is that it's helping the Saudis in order to stave off humanitarian disaster; that is, the Pentagon claims it's assisting the Saudis to try and avoid slaughtering innocents.
But ironically as the US gears up to actually train Saudi pilots on American soil, defense officials are in reality positioning themselves to take greater ownership of atrocities, even if their thinking is that this new program creates distance.
Bruce Riedel, a 30-year CIA officer and senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, once told a conference audience, “If the United States and the United Kingdom, tonight, told King Salman [of Saudi Arabia] ‘this war has to end,’ it would end tomorrow. The Royal Saudi Air Force cannot operate without American and British support.”
But it appears the US is now integrating itself even more fully in the war while seeking to convince the public that it's acting as a mediator of sorts to clamp down on civilian atrocities.