Yemen: Arab Coalition Puts Boots On The Ground

Matt Vespa
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Posted: May 05, 2015 1:28 PM
Yemen: Arab Coalition Puts Boots On The Ground

The Associated Press has reported that Arab coalition troops are on the ground in Yemen to complete a “reconnaissance” mission. Egypt has also admitted for the first time that it had deployed ground forces to the region, as they are expected to be participants in any future ground offensive against the Shiite Houthi rebels that ousted President Abed Rabo Mansour Hadi over the winter (via AP):

With helicopter gunships hovering overhead, at least 20 troops from a Saudi-led Arab coalition came ashore Sunday in the southern port city of Aden on what military officials called a "reconnaissance" mission, as fighting raged between Iranian-backed Shiite rebels and forces loyal to the nation's exiled president.

It was the first ground landing by coalition forces since the start of the Saudi-led air campaign against the rebels and their allies — forces loyal to ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh — who have captured most of northern Yemen and marched on southern provinces over the past year.

In Cairo, meanwhile, Egypt, a key coalition member that has been named as a likely participant in any ground offensive in Yemen, acknowledged for the first time that it has deployed troops in the Gulf region and the Red Sea as part of the Saudi-led coalition.

The objective of Sunday's landing was not immediately clear, but Yemeni military officials said the coalition troops would help train forces loyal to the country's internationally recognized leader, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who has been in exile since he fled Aden in March. They would also try to identify an area that could serve as a "green zone" from which Hadi and his government could operate when they return to Yemen.

At the top of that list, said the officials, is the al-Bureqah area west of Aden, which stretches for about 15 kilometers (about 10 miles) along the coast and is home to a major oil refinery and large fuel tanks.

The Western-backed Hadi fled to neighboring Saudi Arabia in March, just a few weeks after he fled the capital, Sanaa, which was captured by the rebels, known as Houthis, in September.

Saudi officials declined to immediately comment on Sunday's landing. However, military and security officials have repeatedly said a ground operation would follow the Saudi-led air campaign that began on March 26, after the military capabilities of the Houthis and their allies had been sufficiently weakened.

On Sunday, the Yemeni officials said that streamlining the militiamen fighting the Houthis in Aden was a key step toward establishing a coherent force that a coalition expedition in Aden could lend support to.