The United Arab Emirates has announced that it is not withdrawing completely from Yemen, despite a reduction in the number of its troops deployed in the war-torn country.
Writing in an opinion piece published in the Washington Post yesterday, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash made it clear that the UAE and the rest of the coalition “are not leaving” Yemen. “While we will operate differently,” explained Gargash, “our military presence will remain. In accordance with international law, we will continue to advise and assist local Yemen forces.”
This stands in stark contrast to recent speculation that the UAE has been gradually withdrawing its troops from Yemen, following its previous announcement earlier this month that it will “start reducing the number of its troops in several areas” such as Al Hudaydah, following fierce battles against the Houthi militias.
The move to reduce the UAE’s military presence to one of an advise and assist role is, as Gargash stressed in the Post, to allow the crisis in Yemen to be solved through a political solution rather than a purely military one. “As the United Arab Emirates draws down and redeploys its forces in Yemen, we do so in the same way we began, with eyes wide open,” he said. “There was no easy victory and there will be no easy peace… But now is the time to double down on the political process.”
The minister added that the UAE’s move should be seen by the Houthis as a “confidence-building measure to create new momentum to end the conflict,” in the hope that the Shia-dominated militia can be included in the political process for peace.
Throughout the four-year conflict in Yemen, which erupted in 2015 between the Saudi- and UAE-backed government forces of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi and the Houthis, tens of thousands of people have been killed. Moreover, a famine has ravaged the country while aid has been prevented from reaching much of the population, leading to what the UN has described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
As part of the Saudi-led coalition, the UAE has played a key role in the conflict by providing military support and involving the effective use of its Special Forces. It has also hired foreign mercenaries, mainly from Colombia, who it has reportedly used to torture people held in UAE-controlled prisons within Yemen.