Houthi Military Capabilities Continue To Surprise Biden Administration

President Biden’s administration is surprised by the Houthis’ military capabilities and weapons in Yemen. The question about the Houthis’ weapons capabilities is concerning to the Pentagon as ships in the Red Sea continue to be attacked by the rebel group. One senior defense official said, “They continue to surprise us. We just don’t have a good idea of what they still have.”

In response to the Israeli war in Gaza, the Houthi rebels in Yemen started launching sophisticated missiles to attack Israeli-bound ships in the Red Sea. After the U.S. and U.K. began military operations against the Houthis, the Houthis began attacking ships with U.S. and U.K. interest. There have been at least 57 attacks on ships in the Red Sea near the coast of Yemen.

There is debate about whether the Houthis have sunk one ship. The U.K.-registered cargo ship, MV Rubymar was attacked on February 18 in the Gulf of Aden. The crew of 24 safely abandoned the ship, but the vessel was taken on water. The stern is below the waterline and Rubymar cannot sail under its own power.

The Houthis receive funding and weapons from Iran. Iran has enabled various terrorist organizations with weapons, training, and monetary support. Hamas and Hezbollah also have close ties to Iran. Additionally, Russia has purchased Iranian-made military drones to use in their war against the Ukraine.

Prior to the shipping attacks, 15% of the world’s shipping transit the Red Sea and Suez Canal to go between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean. Without safe passage, ships must go around the African continent, adding about 18 days to their journey. This additional time at sea delays shipments and adds significant costs which are passed to the consumer, ultimately increasing prices for certain products.

U.S. defense officials say that they don’t know the size of the Houthis’ weapons stockpiles nor do they know the effectiveness of the bombing campaign against the Houthis. The U.S. military has partnered with the U.K. to attack Houthis since January 11 with daily missile and bombing strikes. The operation against the Houthis has not slowed their attacks on shipping.

U.S. Navy destroyers are being used defensively to shoot down Houthi-launched anti-ship missiles and drones. Since October 2023, the USS Carney (DDG-64) has shot down five anti-ship missiles and 32 armed drones launched by the Houthis.