According to The New York Times, 450 Latin American fighters have been contracted by private US companies and directly by the government of the UAE to join hundreds of Sudanese soldiers whom Saudi Arabia has recruited to fight there as part of the coalition. It is the first combat deployment for a foreign army that the Emirates has built over the past five years The program was once managed by a private company connected to Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater Worldwide, but the people involved in the effort said that his role ended several years ago and that it has since been run by the Emirati military.
Colombian, Panamanian, Salvadorean and Chilean soldiers arrived to battle the Houthi rebels who have pushed the Yemeni government out of the capital, Sana. Most of the soldiers are Colombian, as Emirati officials consider them more battle tested in guerrilla warfare, having spent decades battling gunmen of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in the jungles of Colombia. According to Huffington Post, the Colombians claim to have contracts directly with the Emirati military, while in El Salvador contracting goes through a national company subcontracted by Northrup Grumman. According to Colombian reports, their mercenaries receive less than half what European or US soldiers get. Despite this, they still make on average five times more than what they would earn in their home countries.
Forbes reports that Northrup Grumman absorbed an obscure company called Vinnelli that holds a $819 million-dollar contract to provide personnel for the Saudi National Guard, dating back to 1975.
It cannot be known for sure if the hundreds of Latin American mercenaries were trained in the United States or by the US military in their own countries. The US government does not reveal the names of the soldiers or police that it has trained, nor is there a public registry of mercenaries.
The United States has also been participating in the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen, providing logistical support, including airborne refueling, to the nations conducting the airstrikes. The Pentagon has sent a team to Saudi Arabia to provide targeting intelligence to the coalition militaries that is regularly used for the airstrikes.
The Obama administration has also in recent years approved the sale of billions of dollars’ worth of military hardware from American contractors to the Saudi and Emirati militaries, equipment that is being used in the Yemen conflict. This month, the administration authorized a $1.29 billion Saudi request for thousands of bombs to replenish stocks that had been depleted by the campaign in Yemen, although American officials say that the bombs would take months to arrive and were not directly tied to the war in Yemen.