What the UAE drawdown means for the Yemen conflict

Officials say the move represents a shift from a military first to peace first approach

Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

The UAE has confirmed a redeployment of forces from Hodeidah province in Yemen.

Officials say it represents their commitment to a political agreement made by the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels at UN-brokered peace talks in Stockholm late last year.

The agreement made for Hodeidah will see both pro-government and rebel forces pull back from the frontlines and eventually the entire province, a local independent force oversee security and the UN manage the vital port that is a lifeline to millions of Yemenis in the centre and north of the country.

The UAE move, officials say, represents a shift from a military-first solution in Yemen to a peace-first approach. The UAE backs the UN peace process and envoy Martin Griffiths in his bid to end the four-year war.

But despite the drawdown, the Emirates still has four key areas of focus in the conflict.

Humanitarian aid, training of local forces, bolstering defensive positions and counter-terrorism operations.

Since April 2015, the UAE has provided nearly $5.59 billion in assistance, helping 17.2 million Yemenis in every province of the country. But the humanitarian situation is still dire.

The UN estimates that 24 million Yemenis – close to 80 per cent of the population – are in need of assistance. Famine threatens numerous provinces and cholera is on the rise again.

Since the start of the conflict, the UAE has trained 90,000 local fighters in a bid to bolster the internationally recognized government and prevent the rebels from taking control of the entire country.

The operation to increase the number and professionalism of the Yemeni government forces will continue, officials say. So too will UAE military operations to assist government troops on the ground and prevent Houthi offensives.

Lastly, the ongoing albeit diminished threat posed by terror groups is of continued concern.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has expanded during the Yemen war and the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris that left 11 dead was planned and orchestrated from the Yemeni mountains.

While the UAE backed forces have won significant territory back from the militants, the fight against terror groups will continue.

Describing the counter-terrorism operation, one UAE official told The National that they have eroded AQAP’s ability to stage global attacks or be a “premier” terror franchise.