Jeddah and Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—Forces loyal to Yemen’s internationally recognized President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi will launch an assault on the Houthi-controlled capital Sana’a within 15 days, according to a senior Yemeni military commander.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Brig. Gen. Abdullah Al-Subaihi, commander of the Popular Resistance units which liberated the southern city of Aden from the Houthis last month, said the plan will concentrate on besieging the Houthis in Sana’a after blocking their access to allied forces loyal to ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh—who has backed the Houthi insurgency.
“Forces loyal to political legitimacy [the Popular Resistance] have laid down a strategy, in coordination with the [Saudi-led] coalition [targeting the Houthis in Yemen], which will come into effect in the coming days. The plan comprises liberating a large part of the territory currently under the control of the putschists,” Subaihi said, referring to the Houthis.
Two separate units from the Popular Resistance, totaling around 2,000 ground forces and supported by coalition warplanes, plan to liberate the cities of Taiz and Ma’rib—which lie some 160 miles (260 kilometers) and 124 miles (200 kilometers) to the south and east of Sana’a respectively—before heading to the capital.
“All possible contingencies have been taken into account including the threat of sniper attacks and [the Houthis] planting landmines in a number of different areas,” Subaihi said.
The Popular Resistance, who succeeded in liberating Aden last month and continue to fight the Houthis on the ground, comprise volunteer fighters and military cadres loyal to Hadi.
Along with the Saudi-led coalition they aim to restore Hadi to power after he and the government were deposed in a coup by the Houthis in February. This followed the group’s occupation of Sana’a in September of 2014.
Hadi eventually escaped to Riyadh after being held under House arrest by the Iran-backed Houthis, and requested Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies intervene with military force in Yemen in order to counter the Houthi coup and restore him and the government to power.
The UN sponsored peace talks between the government and the Houthis in Geneva in June in order to find a political solution to the crisis but both sides were unable to reach an agreement to end the fighting. The government blamed the failure of the talks on the Houthis not accepting a UN Security Council resolution stipulating the group vacate areas of the country under their control and cease all military action against civilians.
UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed arrived in Cairo on Thursday to hold talks with Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby on finding a political solution to the crisis in Yemen. The UN has proposed sending Arab observers to the country in coordination with the League to oversee the process.
A diplomatic source told Asharq Al-Awsat on Friday that Ould Cheikh Ahmed was still holding meetings with Yemeni and Arab officials in Cairo.
The source said there was “great optimism” that an agreement for a political solution would be reached soon, despite there remaining “many obstacles” currently slowing down the talks.
The source said the latest developments in the conflict in Yemen, with the Popular Mobilization and coalition forces making ground against the Houthis, “have had a big effect on the positions taken by the different [political] sides.”