Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—Foreign Minister Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi said that it will take Yemen years to completely eradicate Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) from the country, as Yemeni military forces continue a massive offensive against the militant group in the country’s south.
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Qirbi said that Yemen’s battle against terrorism requires an “integrated strategy,” adding that this is a war that cannot be won through military force alone. He said that Sana’a must seek to carry out broad-ranging reforms and find solutions to unemployment and poverty.
Qirbi affirmed that the Friends of Yemen group will release an estimated 8 billion US dollars of assistance to help Sana’a carry out a program of military, economic and administrative reforms.
He acknowledged that Yemen’s military forces need restructuring and modernization so they can be truly representative of all of Yemen, adding that that the Friends of Yemen had pledged to provide financial and logistical help, particularly the UK, the US, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
Yemen’s military forces held a victory celebration in Shabwa Province on Thursday to mark government forces’ arrival at the cities of Huta and Azzan, the last known strongholds of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) strongholds in the restive southern province. This comes as part of a major southern offensive launched by Sana’a last week targeting AQAP.
“Yemeni forces have been able to resolve many of the battles in Shabwa and Abyan, destroying Al-Qaeda camps and displacing or killing AQAP members,” Qirbi said.
“The Yemeni army has a great responsibility to confront the terrorist activities being carried out by AQAP, particularly in the south,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat, adding that the major southern offensive is progressing well and enjoying broad popular support from the residents of Abyan and Shabwa.
Defense Minister Maj. Gen. Mohammed Nasser Ahmed congratulated President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, Yemen’s armed forces and the general public over the success of the southern offensive on the eleventh day of the operation.
“Yemen’s armed forces will continue to pursue the remaining terrorists in the neighboring villages and districts, and we will not allow these killers another opportunity to harm the security of the state,” state news agency SABA quoted Ahmed as saying.
“We assure you that the military and security sources present today are here to protect you and your security. They are your sons and it is their duty to defend the public tranquility. This is the mission of the armed forces in order to create the conditions that allow the implementation of the decisions of the National Dialogue Conference,” the defense minister said in a speech to the people of Shabwa.
Fighting continued in neighboring Abyan province on Thursday, with the government reporting that security forces had seized “large quantities of weapons and explosives” at the home of an AQAP member in the province on Thursday.
Sana’a launched a major security offensive against AQAP in southern Yemen on April 28, which officials say has killed and captured a number of senior militant leaders and forced others to flee the advancing army.
A number of foreign AQAP members have been reported killed in clashes with government forces after president Hadi claimed that 70 percent of members of the group are foreign nationals. Sana’a announced the deaths of three non-Yemeni AQAP members on Wednesday, a Pakistani national, a Saudi national and an Algerian national.
A security official told SABA that the majority of AQAP members killed in Shabwa and Abyan provinces have been foreign nationals, particularly from Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Somalia and Chechnya.