The US has been ‘too passive’ with the Houthis in the Red Sea and should go after their leaders, says retired US general

The US has been ‘too passive’ with the Houthis in the Red Sea and should go after their leaders, says...

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Security soldiers guard during a protest backing the Houthis in Sana'a, Yemen on March 22, 2024.
Guards during a protest backing the Houthis in Sana’a, Yemen, on March 22, 2024.

  • The US has been “too passive” in the Red Sea, a retired US general told CBS’ Face The Nation.
  • Kenneth F. McKenzie, former CENTCOM commander, said the US Navy should go after Houthi leaders.
  • The Houthis have been using drones and missiles to target commercial shipping in the Red Sea.

A retired US general said the US has been too passive when it comes to the Houthis, letting them dominate the Red Sea, and said that it should go after their leaders instead.

“We’ve been too passive,” Kenneth F. McKenzie, who previously led the US Central Command, told CBS’ Face The Nation on Sunday.

“We’ve allowed the Houthis really to dominate the global maritime communications by closing down effectively the Suez Canal,” he said.

The Houthis have been using drones and missiles to target ships in the Red Sea corridor to exert pressure on Israel and the West over the war in Gaza.

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As a result, the main maritime lanes have needed to be guarded by a US Navy carrier strike group and vessels from European nations.

The US Navy’s Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group has spent months combating the Houthis in the key shipping lanes of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden to allow the safe transit of international commercial shipping.

The US strike group — which consists of an aircraft carrier and several other warships — has gone after over 400 Houthi targets in dozens of self-defense operations, according to data Navy officials shared with Business Insider last month.

But McKenzie, who oversaw the high-profile 2019 special forces raid in Syria to kill or capture then-ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, said the US has been essentially “catching and not pitching” in the Red Sea, despite deploying “multi-billion-dollar warships.”

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While he acknowledged the US Navy had upped its use of munitions, he said it needed to go after the source of the attacks: Houthi leadership and command-and-control facilities in Yemen.

“I would argue that the threat of escalation is very small if we conduct these attacks,” McKenzie said.

The sheer number of ships engaged in the region makes it the largest battle the US Navy has been engaged in since World War II, Vice Adm. Brad Cooper told “60 Minutes” in February.

That same month, Rear Adm. Marc Miguez, the US strike group’s commander, told BI that they had planes in the sky “constantly.”

“It’s a huge effort,” Miguez said.

According to a post by The Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, the Houthis are difficult to degrade or deter, in part because Iran supports them with weaponry, but also because they use the conflict to strengthen their domestic support in Yemen.

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Yahya Sare’e, a spokesperson for the Yemeni Armed Forces, has vowed to continue attacks until the Israeli “aggression” in Gaza stops, per Reuters.

Last month, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines warned of the prospect of a protracted conflict, saying the Houthis’ threat is likely to remain active for some time.

In an analysis in February, BI’s defense writer Michael Peck said that the US could face the same fate as Egypt, which sent 70,000 soldiers into Yemen and conducted a relentless bombing campaign in the 1960s, but failed to suppress the group.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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