The UAE declared on Monday its intention to “start reducing the number of its troops in several areas in Yemen,” according to an Emirati official, AFP reports.
The UAE’s decision does not mean an end to its participation in the war on Yemen, which has been going on since 2015 and has caused dozens of casualties. The crimes committed in Yemen have received increasing international condemnation and calls to stop arms sales to the UAE and its Saudi ally in both Europe and the United States.
The official attributed the decision to a “redeployment” plan adopted by the UAE for “strategic and tactical reasons”, adding that Abu Dhabi is moving from a “military force strategy” to prioritising a “peace plan” in Yemen.
Emirati official news agency or the UAE-owned media have not reported the news.
The UAE official indicated in an interview with reporters in Dubai, on condition of anonymity, that: “there has been a reduction of armed forces in Al Hudaydah (west of Yemen) for strategic reasons and in other areas for tactical reasons”. Thus, for more than a year, the UAE has failed to control Al Hudaydah, while the Houthis are still monitoring the city’s strategic port despite the fierce battles taking place in the area.
A military official in the internationally recognized government in Yemen said that the UAE had “completely evacuated Al Khawkhah camp south of Al Hudaydah, handed it over to Yemeni forces a few days ago and withdrew part of its heavy weaponry from the area”. The official also noted that “the UAE forces are still managing the west coast fully with the Yemeni forces within the framework of Saudi-led coalition’s military operations.”
The UAE has been a key member of the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen since March 2015, in support of Yemeni government forces in the face of the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
At the end of last month, Reuters reported that tensions in the Gulf region between the United States and Iran prompted the UAE to reduce its military presence in Yemen.
Reuters quoted unnamed diplomatic sources as saying that the UAE would prefer to have its troops and equipment at its disposal in the event of the outbreak of a war between the United States and Iran, following attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf, and Tehran’s destruction of a US drone.
“It is true that there are some troop movements; however, the UAE is not withdrawing from Yemen,” a senior Emirati official told Reuters, adding that the UAE is still fully committed to the military coalition with Saudi Arabia and would not leave a loophole in Yemen. The official did not provide further details about the military redeployments or figures involved. Also, he did not unveil whether this was happening inside or outside Yemen.