Yemen’s warring factions are meeting in Kuwait this week for U.N.-brokered negotiations with hopes for the talks to succeed, noting that if the UN-backed peace talks fail, a Saudi Arabia-led coalition fighting rebels in Yemen will move on the capital Sanaa.
Coalition spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri commented saying; “. If the talks fail, “Sanaa will be free soon.” but if not, today we have troops around the capital and we will get in because the goal” is to secure Yemen.
The latter’s comments indicate a potential escalation in military operations after Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salma said last month that there was “significant progress” in talks and the conflict was close to ending.
According to Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for the U.N. Secretary-General, some common ground has emerged in Kuwait deliberations. The parties agreed “in principle” to explore a proposal to release 50 percent of all detainees held by each side ahead of the holy month of Ramadan and eventually release all detainees.
Special Forces from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are focused on thwarting the militants, while a “small team” from the U.S. is on the ground providing intelligence on al-Qaida, Asseri said. Saudi and Emirati Special Forces don’t stay in the country, and instead travel from the Saudi base in Sharurah along the border. The U.S. military carried out four airstrikes in Yemen in recent weeks killing 10 al-Qaida operatives, U.S. Central Command on May 6.
The southern port of Aden is protected by about 300 Sudanese security forces who back Yemeni troops, as Asseri said; which is now the base of the Saudi-backed government headed by President Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi. The coalition is moving into the “stabilization” phase of its operation, which includes targeting al-Qaida’s local affiliate in its southern strongholds, he said.
The militants are scattered in the southern mountainous regions, after the coalition recaptured the southern port of Mukalla from al-Qaida with “one or two companies,” Asseri said. Operations in Aden started with a brigade of about 1,000 to 1,500 troops, he said. But the coalition is reducing the foreign troop count, while increasing the number of local Yemeni fighters.
“We don’t leave forces on the ground; the only forces on the ground is the Yemeni army,” Asseri said. “Once we defeat al-Qaida we don’t want to have a vacuum so we need the Yemeni army in” those areas, he said.