Saudi-led coalition cannot deny presence of Yemen ground forces

Saudi-led coalition cannot deny presence of Yemen ground forces
Analysis: The Saudi-led coalition's ground forces are present across several Yemen provinces, and make it seem as though parts of the country are 'occupied'.
5 min read
10 April, 2018
Yemenis hope for peace despite their country becoming a military quagmire [Getty]
The Saudi-led coalition ground forces sustained heavy losses last week in Yemen. Dozens of Sudanese soldiers died in a Houthi ambush in the conflict-stricken Hajja province.

This was the latest in a string of deaths and casualities for the Arab coalition forces in Yemen over the past three years.

Although it is hard to come by accurate figures revealing the precise number of coalition soldiers killed and wounded in Yemen since 2015, the human losses on the battlefield cannot be denied.

However, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, in an interview with TIME magazine, said the coalition had not deployed ground troops to Yemen, but would be willing to send them if the Yemeni government so required.

"It's a battle between Yemeni people, Yemeni government trying to get rid of the terrorists who hijacked their country and their normal life," MbS told his interviewer. "And it's their battle. Whatever they ask us in Saudi Arabia or the other 12 countries in the coalition, we'll provide. Until today they didn't ask for soldiers on the ground."

The statement contradicts the situation on the ground. Last week, Yemeni military officials said hundreds of soldiers from Saudi Arabia and Sudan had arrived to reinforce troops deployed around Saada, a Houthi stronghold.

Yaseen al-Tamimi, a Yemeni political researcher, told The New Arab that the MbS claim was detached from reality.

"The words of bin Salman are one thing, while the genuine reality is absolutely a different thing," said Tamimi.  

Just a few days after the MbS interview, the slaughter of dozens of Sudanese soldiers in Yemen was widely reported. Social media platforms were awash with photos of the corpses of Sundanese troops. 

The Saudi crown prince, who is also the defence minister and the architect of Yemen war, intended to argue that the coalition deployment of ground forces had not been carried out thus far. But the facts dictate that coalition troops arrived in Yemen's Aden in April 2015. They helped the pro-government army and popular fighters recapture Aden from the Houthis in July 2015.

Moreover, the coalition had a presence in other Yemeni provinces including Marib to the east, Taiz to the south and Hajja to the northwest. Today, the coalition soldiers are reported to have advanced to Hodeida's Al-Khokha district, located in the west of Yemen.

A number of territories in Yemen have been under the 'occupation' of the Arab coalition

Yemen is not free from Arab troops, and several observers say a number of territories in Yemen have been under the "occupation" of the Arab coalition. Still, when MbS was asked if the coalition would consider the use of ground troops, he replied: "If it’s needed, if they ask for it, we will help them and we will answer the call of the legitimate elected Yemeni president recognised by all the countries around the world, supported by the Security Council."

Coalition losses in Yemen

Since 2015, the Arab coalition's losses have been accumulating. Coalition soldiers have been killed, aircraft have been downed and military equipment destroyed.

That there have been human losses is undisputed. The first came in March 2015 when a Houthis-fired Tochka missile claimed the lives of 50 Arab coalition soldiers in Marib province to the east of Sanaa. It was reported that 45 were Emirati and five were from Bahrain.

In September last year, Sudanese officials confirmed that 412 Sudanese soldiers had been killed in the fight in Yemen. It is believed that thousands of Sudanese soldiers have been deployed to Yemen since 2015.

Moreover, in February of this year, an Emirati soldier died in Yemen while on duty within the operations of the Arab coalition, according to the UAE's WAM news agency.

Reports of military casualties among the Saudi-led Arab coalition have not stopped since 2015. This proves the coalition ground troops have been at least directing the ground battle in Yemen, and any denial of this reality is entirely fallacious.

Abdulsalam Mohammed, the head of the Abad Studies and Research Centre, told The New Arab: "Though the Saudi ground troops 'do not exist' in Yemen, Yemenis still suffer from the Emirati presence in Aden. There is also the presence of the Sudanese forces."

The coalition prolongs the war through the limited support which exhausts Yemenis

Mohammed added: "Unfortunately, the Arab coalition does not provide the sufficient military support in order to score a military victory. The coalition prolongs the war through the limited support which exhausts Yemenis."

Houthi losses

While it remains uncontested that the Arab coalition has lost an unknown number of soldiers in Yemen, the Houthis have also borne huge losses since the war broke out. Thousands of coalition airstrikes have targeted Houthi militants, their weapon depots as well as the civilian infrastructure across Yemen.

Hitherto, the Houthis have not revealed the true number of their deaths and injuries over the course of three years of war. However, the casualties should be estimated in the thousands.

The UN says more than 10,000 people - including civilians - have died in Yemen over the past three years. No official reports have specifically stated the number of fighters killed. The conflicting parties' losses are atrocious, but they cover up the true figures as part of their war strategy. 

The writer is a Yemeni journalist, reporting from Yemen, whose identity we are protecting for their security.