Posted on August 07, 2018 by Ashleigh Cowie
A military coalition fighting against the Houthi rebels in Yemen reportedly cut deals with al-Qaeda, recruiting hundreds of their fighters according to a report by The Associated Press.
A military coalition battling Houthi rebels secured secret deals with al-Qaeda in Yemen and recruited hundreds of the group's fighters, a news report said on Monday.
The investigation found the Saudi-led alliance has been paying some al-Qaeda commanders to leave key cities and towns while letting others retreat with weapons, equipment, and looted cash.
Hundreds of al-Qaeda members were recruited to join the coalition as soldiers, the report said.
Key figures in the deal-making said the United States was aware of the arrangements and held off on drone attacks against the armed group, which was founded by Osama bin Laden in 1988.
The larger mission in the region is to win the civil war against the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels.
And in that fight, al-Qaeda fighters are effectively on the same side as the Saudi-led coalition and, by extension, the US.
"Elements of the US military are clearly aware that much of what the US is doing in Yemen is aiding AQAP and there is much angst about that," said Michael Horton, a fellow at the Jamestown Foundation.
"However, supporting the UAE and Saudi Arabia against what the US views as Iranian expansionism takes priority over battling AQAP and even stabilising Yemen," Horton said.
Coalition-backed fighters actively recruit al-Qaeda fighters - or those who were recently members - because they are considered exceptional on the battlefield, according to on-the-ground interviews.
The Pentagon recently vigorously denied any complicity with al-Qaeda fighters.
"Since the beginning of 2017, we have conducted more than 140 strikes to remove key AQAP leaders and disrupt its ability to use ungoverned spaces to recruit, train and plan operations against the US and our partners across the region," Navy Commander Sean Robertson, a Pentagon spokesman, wrote in an email.
A senior Saudi official said the Saudi-led coalition "continues its commitment to combat extremism and terrorism".
Concerned by the rise of the Houthi rebels, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and a coalition of Arab states launched a military offensive in 2015 in the form of a massive air campaign aimed at re-installing the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
Within this complicated conflict, al-Qaeda says its numbers - which US officials have estimated at 6,000 to 8,000 members - are rising.
In February, Emirati troops and their Yemeni government fighter allies declared the recapture of al-Said, a district of villages running through the mountainous province of Shabwa - an area al-Qaeda had largely dominated for nearly three years.
It was painted as a crowning victory in a months-long offensive known as Operation Swift Sword.
But weeks before those forces' entry, a string of pick-up trucks mounted with machine guns and loaded with masked al-Qaeda fighters drove out of al-Said unmolested, according to a tribal mediator involved in the deal for their withdrawal.
Under the terms of the agreement, the coalition promised al-Qaeda members it would pay them up to 100,000 Saudi riyals ($26,000) to leave, according to Awad al-Dahboul, the province's security chief.
His account was confirmed by the mediator and two Yemeni government officials.
Under the accord, thousands of local tribal fighters were to be enlisted in the UAE-funded Shabwa Elite Force militia. For every 1,000 fighters, 50 to 70 would be al-Qaeda members, the mediator and two officials said.
ShippingThe situation in Yemen has been having a significant impact on the shipping industry in the area.
ARX Maritime has reported an onslaught of missile attacks and ground offensives as tensions rise in the region:
05th April 2018- EU NAVFOR Warns Against Transits Through Red Sea
17th April 2018- Military Cargo Smuggled in to Yemen in Aid Shipments
23rd April 2018- Houthis Rebels Hold 19 Oil Vessels
14th May 2018- Turkish Bulker Hit by Missile
13th June 2018- Major Port Attacked in Biggest Assault of Yemen War
14th June 2018- Yemeni Navy Launch Counter Attack on Saudi-led Coalition
14th June 2018- Saudi Arabia and UAE Join to Protect Yemen's Hodeidah Port
04th July 2018- Merchant Vessel Attacked by rebels off Yemen
26th July 2018- Saudi Companies Stopped Bab-El-Mandeb Transits
The region has become progressively more hostile as tensions worsen between the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition. The rebel movement has taken control of the Saada province and neighbouring areas, as well as the region’s key port city of Hodeidah.
The war has seen years of fighting and three failed UN-organised efforts to negotiate a peace deal. Since March 2015 more than 9,245 people have been killed and 52,800 have been injured. About 75% of the population are in need of humanitarian assistance, including 11.3million people who are in acute need of immediate assistance to survive.