The six-year conflict incurrently sees a stalemate in and mounting losses by pro-government forces elsewhere. This has led to the resurgence of chaos in the war-torn country, which threatens stability across liberated areas of the south.
Houthi rebels based in Sanaa, the Yemeni capital, have made advances against pro-government forces in al-Baydha province. They have also pushed southern forces, Salafi factions and al-Islah affiliates out of southern districts.also claim to have defeated militants belonging to in the Arabian Peninsula ( ), who fought alongside tribes, Salafis and pro-government forces.
Securing the Flow of Aid in Yemen
These claims come a year after the party face fierce opposition from southern security forces.said they had cleared northeast al-Baydha of and Islamic State (IS) militants. These fighters are said to have moved into Abyan and Shebwa provinces. This has increased instability in areas where government troops allied with President and the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Islah
It has been nearly a year and a half of fighting in the oil-rich province of movement by -affiliated militants from al-Baydha into places like Mudiyah in northern Abyan province, as well as the southwest of Shebwa.between and pro-government forces. Southerners fear that civilian officials and troops affiliated with al-Islah, a Sunni Islamist party, will withdraw and seek refuge in areas like Shebwa province. In addition, southerners have expressed concern over
These militants claimed operations against al-Sawmah and southwest areas of al-Baydha, which border Abyan. The fighting there has subsided, with claiming control of territory around Homaiqan and areas near Bayhan. Claims of territorial gains by and AQAP operations have raised the alarm for southern forces, including the Security Belt Units (SBU) in Abyan that fought with pro-government troops. This was particularly the case following the arrest of militants linked to attacks on the SBU in Abyan and .in
The Southern Transitional Council (STC), which is part of Hadi’s government today, and other southern allies believe the movement of forces from al-Baydha and 2019 Riyadh Agreement and the 2020 deal for a coalition government. The build-up of troops without coordination under these agreements is a threat to a more comprehensive deal negotiated by Saudi Arabia to focus on the fight against across northern territories.into Abyan or Shebwa violate the
The influx of militants into areas like Mudiya, Abyan and new attacks on SBU officials in places like Bureiqa in worry southerners. The latter see the conflict expanding beyond clashes with military and tribal forces in Abyan loyal to President and troops under the direction of Vice-President Ali Muhsin and affiliated with al-Islah. Instead, they believe, the fight is now against a growing number of militants in the area.
Chaos and Refuge
For southerners, an influx of militants and al-Islah’s ambition to control the oil-rich Shebwa province bring back memories of radicalization and recruitment of Yemenis for the Soviet-Afghan War in the 1980s and the occupation of southernby northerners after the 1994 civil war. Islah-affiliated forces have increased their presence around the oil fields of Usaylan in northern Shebwa. They are also pushing to take control of the Belhaf LNG Terminal, which is currently protected by Shebwani Elite Forces that are pro-STC.
While the southern case for autonomy remains excluded from UN-led peace talks, the STC is recognized by the Saudi-led coalition as a legitimate representative of southerners and allied forces charged with securing southern territory “under supervision of the coalition.” Since the Riyadh Agreement was signed, operations to stabilize southern provinces like , Abyan and Shebwa have been obstructed by the movement of militants and the amassment of Islah-affiliated troops east of Shoqra in Abyan.
The build-up of government forces in Abyan and Shebwa is a result of both a retreat from al-Baydha and Mareb and efforts to reinforce troops inside Abyan province. The movement of forces into Abyan in 2020 violated the Riyadh Agreement. Government reinforcements have also escalated tensions with the SBU, further destabilizing this fragile environment.
Now, the retreat of troops from Rahba district.into northern Shebwa — some deployed to protect oil infrastructure — is seen as aiming to strengthen the presence of Islah and secure refuge in case City falls to . Southern forces have asked why government troops are retreating to Shebwa while advance through Murad and now
In Abyan, the province is divided into three. First, the STC holds territory west of Shoqra along the coast to Lower Yafa, the border with al-Baydha and Lahj. Second, tribal forces and military units loyal to, who hails from Abyan, hold areas in northern Abyan bordering al-Baydha. Third, government troops, led by commanders affiliated with al-Islah and Ali Muhsin, hold territory east of Shoqra and along the border with Shebwa.
Official Security Belt Units. has reportedly targeted government troops in northern Abyan, but it has yet to claim operations along the coast west of Shoqra. Without confirming specific links between militants and government forces, southerners are asking how militants can bypass security checkpoints and travel from western al-Baydha to Mudiya and then western Shebwa.wires have claimed a number of operations against
Misdirection and Refuge
Reports of a resurgence ofin southern have been met with skepticism. As a consequence of escalating media wars, some observers claim labeling individuals as militants is merely part of the demonization game between rivals. Yet confirmation via official online wires claimed by not only allows observers to navigate the media wars, but it also points to asymmetric tactics utilized by rivals to create chaos on the ground.
In recent months, labeled the current manifestations of as active, committed, pragmatic and fake. The origin and intent of the “fake” faction are what worries southerners, who view this as an instrument of misdirection in a battle to secure refuge for groups like al-Islah. This is primarily because many of the operations not claimed by target southern forces in areas of confrontation with government forces affiliated with al-Islah.has claimed a number of operations against in al-Baydha and southern forces in Abyan and . Some operations have only been claimed or assigned to via social media and news outlets. Dr. Elizabeth Kendall of Oxford University has
The timing of movement by Munir al-Yafai in 2019, adds credibility to claims that the aim is to create chaos and cause the collapse of the Riyadh Agreement. In doing so, the story goes, confrontation would ensue between al-Islah-affiliated forces and southern factions over control of strategic territory in the south.militants across Abyan and Shebwa, coupled with increasing operations since the death of SBU counterterrorism chief
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
Support Fair Observer
We rely on your support for our independence, diversity and quality.
For more than 10 years, Fair Observer has been free, fair and independent. No billionaire owns us, no advertisers control us. We are a reader-supported nonprofit. Unlike many other publications, we keep our content free for readers regardless of where they live or whether they can afford to pay. We have no paywalls and no ads.
In the post-truth era of fake news, echo chambers and filter bubbles, we publish a plurality of perspectives from around the world. Anyone can publish with us, but everyone goes through a rigorous editorial process. So, you get fact-checked, well-reasoned content instead of noise.
We publish 2,500+ voices from 90+ countries. We also conduct education and training programs
on subjects ranging from digital media and journalism to writing and critical thinking. This
doesn’t come cheap. Servers, editors, trainers and web developers cost
Please consider supporting us on a regular basis as a recurring donor or a sustaining member.
Will you support FO’s journalism?
We rely on your support for our independence, diversity and quality.