The United States has around 3,000 troops in Saudi Arabia and it will continue to help Riyadh boost its defense capabilities as attacks from Iran-backed groups ramp up, the top US military commander for the region said Wednesday.
Central Command chief Gen. Kenneth McKenzie said that the US “prizes” its relationship and bilateral ties with Saudi Arabia. Since 2019, the US has deployed several air defense systems in the Gulf power.
These include a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery, two Patriot missile batteries and others, McKenzie said during a webinar with the Beirut Institute.
Washington has also worked with Saudi Arabia’s air defense systems to improve their capabilities as well as to integrate air and missile defense systems.
“We are working to integrate [Saudi Arabia’s systems] with those of [its] neighbors in the region and with ours,” McKenzie said.
Fighter squadrons are constantly in Saudi Arabia on a “rotating basis,” he added.
Asked about Yemen and increased attacks by the Houthis, McKenzie said the US was aware of the “ramp-up in Houthi attacks in the last 30 days” against Saudi Arabia.
“This is significant, and these things are not helpful to coming to a peaceful solution in Yemen.
“It is my belief that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia does seek a negotiated political solution in Yemen, and these attacks don’t help,” the US general said.
He also noted that the weapons launched from Yemen “hand Iranian fingerprints all over them.”