US commander says Houthis may have less weapons stockpile due to slowing down of attacks on ships

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The top US Air Force commander for the Middle East said on Wednesday that Houthi rebels in Yemen may be running through supplies of drone swarms and antiship ballistic missiles as the pace of their attacks has slowed slightly.

WASHINGTON: Houthi rebels in Yemen may be running through supplies of drone swarms and anti-ship ballistic missiles as the pace of their attacks has slowed slightly, the top US Air Force commander for the Middle East said on Wednesday.

Lt. Gen. Alexus Grinkevich, head of U.S. Air Force Central, said continued U.S. retaliatory strikes on the Iran-backed militia group “have certainly affected their behavior.” “The speed of their operations is not what it was before.”

The Houthis are carrying out almost daily attacks on commercial and military vessels in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, launching drones and missiles from rebel-held areas of Yemen. The attacks – which are often unsuccessful but at times attack ships – have disrupted a vital shipping route.

In response, the US and allies have been forced to increase the presence of their military ships in the waterway, and on several occasions have launched widespread retaliatory strikes on ammunition, weapons and other facilities. US ships and fighter jets are also regularly bombarding Houthi drones and missiles that are in place and preparing to launch.

Grinkevich said it was difficult to know how much of the Houthis’ weapons supply had been destroyed by the U.S. strikes, because officials did not have a detailed intelligence assessment of their capabilities before the attacks began.

“The challenge for us is to understand what each was in the beginning. In other words, what did they have to begin with? “We clearly know how many attacks we have carried out and we have an assessment of how successful those attacks were.” He said. “The second complicating factor is Iranian re-supply.”

He said the US believed the Houthis had dozens of anti-ship ballistic missiles when they launched and have launched dozens. Therefore, it is important to understand how much Iran is able to restore the group.

The Houthis have defended their campaign as an effort to pressure Israel to end the war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. However, the ships they targeted have little or no connection to Israel, the US, or other countries involved in the war.

Speaking to reporters, Grinkevich said the Houthis are more independent than other Tehran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria and it is more difficult for Iran to control them. Those groups have largely halted their attacks on US forces based in Iraq and Syria since early February, when the US launched a massive retaliatory strike against groups and sites linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

US officials have said they believe pressure from Iran is the cause of the blockage. But Grinkevich said the Houthis are “not that sensitive” to Iranian direction.

He said that even if Iran tried to crack down on the Houthis or cut off arms or other supplies, it would take time to have an impact.

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(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – The Associated Press)