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The fall of the fifth strongest Arab army

The arrival of Minister of Defence, Major General Mahmoud Al-Subaihi, to Aden earlier this week represents a glimmer of hope and the possibility of being able to bring together the Yemeni army, which has become a victim of the fall of the Yemeni capital Sanaa into the hands of the Houthis on 21 September 2014. Perhaps the most significant event to come out of this was the decision of the Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi to move from his home in the capital to the country's economic capital, which was a decision made in large part with the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) as part of a greater effort to isolate the Houthi movement.

Ever since the army began to fall apart, many people asked themselves the following questions: How is it possible that an army that has spent billions of dollars giving food to the poor was defeated by a small militant group such as the Houthis? How could this confrontation be the straw that broke the camel's back after this army went through a series of wars from 2004 to 2010?

How can the Yemeni army be defeated in this shameful way after it was ranked as the fifth strongest Arab army in 2013? What roles do President Hadi and former Defence Minister Mohammad Nasser Ahmed have to play in breaking the Yemeni army apart? Is it possible that we may be able to see a strong army form in the future? Or will more militias be formed to create an even more catastrophic scene? What will the military situation look like if the Houthis continue their catastrophic march towards the southern and eastern parts of the country? In the event the Yemeni government is able to convince the Houthis to stop making unilateral decisions and work towards national dialogue… what then must be done to ensure the protection of the state's sovereignty?

One could have claimed that the unification of Yemen in the 1990s would have been a good historical marker for national progress and the integration of the army if this decision was made based on nationalistic principles; however this was not the case. A sense of chaos later ensued instead of a potential reconciliation and the world witnessed a bloody war in 1994, a war from which the country has yet to heal. Yet, two golden opportunities came as a result of this war, which would have allowed for the development of a solid army based on secure scientific methods. The first opportunity was squandered by ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh who used every opportunity possible to bring more and more corruption to the country and advance his own agenda. Saleh always put his own personal interests above his national responsibilities and ruling the people.

Therefore the six different wars that were waged against the Houthis claimed the lives of thousands of Yemenis who did not belong to parties of dissent and they caused nothing but a sense of chaos. The only outcome that was achieved from these wars was that they got rid of the second man in charge within the Saleh regime and that was General Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar. His death left no other obstacles for Saleh on his road to power. Therefore the Republican Guard at that time gave weapons to the Houthis under the leadership of Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, which is an outcome that the Yemeni people would not have believed if it were not exposed later. Moreover, corruption in the military reached its highest peak under the rule of the ousted president as payroll records later revealed that his government claimed to be paying 500,000 soldiers when in actuality only 100,000 were actually working in the field. Many activists started to joke on Facebook that Yemen was the country of a hundred generals.

President Hadi lost the second chance despite the fact that the Yemeni people had placed high hopes on him and hoped that he would reconstruct the army with a new modern vision. Hadi solicited the expertise of Arab and foreign military experts and appointed General Mohsen Al-Ahmar to serve as his minister of defence. Yet, the counter-revolution, which is being led by the former ousted president, has toppled all of these efforts and swayed the current president's priorities to work in favour of counter-revolutionary interests and against the goals of the Yemeni revolution, which took place on 11 February 2011.

It was at this point in time that a downturn of events began to take place, as the head of the National Security Agency, Ali Ahmadi, describes it. The Yemeni military's morale began to decline after a battle took place in Amran in which 310 military personnel were seized from the camp. On that day, the supreme commander of the armed forces told the Houthi commander that everything was fine and that Amran was in an ideal situation. It was from this point onward that the situation in Yemen began to take a downward spiral and the Houthis gained control of Sanaa.

Many still pin high hopes on the existence of a legitimate president in Aden, especially since the minister of defence is currently being described as a good-intentioned man who will keep the army together; however, it is important to note that the army in question is merely remnants of the former Yemeni army consisting of soldiers who belong to the southern region and non-Zaydi areas. The remnants of the former army are essentially located in remote areas that are far from big cities and therefore have indirectly contributed to Al-Qaeda's rise in Yemen despite the desire to take a unified front against the group.

Today, Yemen finds itself standing at the midst of two crossroads: either they take the path of reconciliation, dialogue and genuine partnership in power and wealth or they work to build a strong national army that will be able to promote a sense of unity and stability by eradicating the presence of sectarian militias. Then and only then will we be able to congratulate the people of the north and the people of the south.

Translated from Al-sharq.com

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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