UAE to cut troops in Yemen

Published July 9, 2019
In this file photo taken on October 04, 2015 Emirati soldiers, taking part in the Saudi-led operations against Yemeni Houthi rebels, stand during rehabilitation and demining operations at the al-Anad airbase in the southern Lahj governorate, some 50 kilometres north of the Red Sea port of Aden.  — AFP
In this file photo taken on October 04, 2015 Emirati soldiers, taking part in the Saudi-led operations against Yemeni Houthi rebels, stand during rehabilitation and demining operations at the al-Anad airbase in the southern Lahj governorate, some 50 kilometres north of the Red Sea port of Aden. — AFP

DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates said on Monday it was redeploying and reducing troops across war-torn Yemen and moving from a “military-first” strategy to a “peace-first” plan.

The UAE is a key partner in a Saudi-led military coalition which intervened in Yemen in 2015 to back the internationally recognised government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi against Iran-aligned Houthi rebels.

“We do have troop levels that are down for reasons that are strategic in (the Red Sea city of) Hodeida and reasons that are tactical” in other parts of the country, a senior UAE official, who requested anonymity, told reporters. “It is very much to do with moving from what I would call a military-first strategy to a peace-first strategy, and this is I think what we are doing.”

The official however reiterated the UAE’s commitment to the Yemeni government and the Saudi-led coalition, saying discussions on redeployment have been ongoing for more than a year.

“This is not really a last-minute decision. This is part of the process and naturally a process within the coalition that’s been discussed extensively with our partners, the Saudis,” he said.

Coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki said both the UAE and Saudi Arabia are committed to achieve their goals in Yemen. “The United Arab Emirates and the countries in the coalition continue to achieve their operations and strategic goals,” he told a news conference in Riyadh in response to a question about the redeployment of UAE troops.

According to a Yemeni military government official, UAE troops fighting the Huthis have “totally vacated” the military base in Khokha, about 130 kilometres south of Hodeida.

The UAE withdrew part of its heavy artillery from Khokha but was — along with the Saudi-led coalition and the government — still overseeing the military situation in Yemen’s western coast, he said on Monday.

Middle East expert James Dorsey has said a redeployment reflects “long-standing subtle differences” in the Saudi and UAE approaches towards Yemen.

The pullback “highlights the UAE’s long-standing concern for its international standing amid mounting criticism of the civilian toll of the war”, he has said.

Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2019

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