UAE: ‘War is over’ for Emirati troops in Yemen
Statement leaves open the possibility of keeping troops in Arabian Peninsula nation for “counterterrorism operations”.
The United Arab Emirates says the “war is over” for its troops in Yemen, though it may continue to keep them there for “counterterrorism operations”.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi’s crown prince and deputy supreme commander of the UAE armed forces, carried the announcement on his official Twitter account late on Wednesday.
He was quoting Anwar Gargash, UAE’s junior minister for foreign affairs, who had given a speech saying the “war is over for our troops”.
“Our standpoint today is clear: war is over for our troops; we’re monitoring political arrangements, empowering Yemenis in liberated areas”
— محمد بن زايد (@MohamedBinZayed) June 15, 2016
An Arabic version of his comments was worded slightly differently from the English one, saying the war is “practically” over.
أنور قرقاش : موقفنا اليوم واضح فالحرب عمليا انتهت لجنودنا ونرصد الترتيبات السياسية ودورنا الأساسي حاليا تمكين اليمنيين في المناطق المحررة
— محمد بن زايد (@MohamedBinZayed) June 15, 2016
The statement left open the likelihood that Emirati troops would remain in the Arabian Peninsula country, where they operate in the southern province of Hadramawt and the port city of Aden.
The spokesman for the Arab coalition assembled by Saudi Arabia did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In his remarks, Gargash defended the UAE’s decision to go to war in Yemen, saying that all political means had been exhausted in the crisis and that Iranian “interference” and support for the Houthis required decisive action.
“The military role has ended,” Riad Kahwaji, a military analyst, told Al Jazeera from Dubai.
“Now the Yemeni conflict has to be resolved through political means. Operation Decisive Storm and Operation Restoring Hope have achieved their objectives.”
Kahwaji ruled out the possibility of a dispute between the UAE and Saudi Arabia, key members of the Arab coalition.
“What we have seen over the past few weeks is Saudis retaliating to violations by the Houthis, who were fighting beyond their borders,” he said.
“We have not seen major operations against Houthi forces from either the Saudis or Emiratis.”
The Arab coalition accuses Iran of arming and supporting the Houthis, while Iran says it has only given the group political support.
READ MORE: Q&A – The man who defeated al-Qaeda in Yemen’s Mukalla
Gargash was speaking to a private audience of guests invited by the crown prince to his royal gathering space, or “majlis”, as it is referred to in the Gulf, as part of a nightly series of lectures given during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Gargash was also quoted as saying that the UAE was “monitoring political arrangements” and “empowering Yemenis in liberated areas”.
The UAE has been among the most active members of the Arab coalition that intervened more than a year ago to help forces loyal to Yemen’s internationally recognised government roll back gains by Shia Houthi rebels, who still control the capital, Sanaa, and much of northern Yemen.
Yemeni security officials told the Associated Press news agency that Emirati troops were still guarding the airport and presidential palace in Aden on Wednesday, from where the government of exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has been operating.
Hadi’s government was driven out of Sanaa in late 2014. Emirati troops also have a camp in Aden.
Continued fighting on several fronts killed at least 48 people over the past day, according to Yemeni security officials.
Another 65 people were wounded in combat between rebels and government forces around the besieged city of Taiz as well as in Shabwa, Jawf and Marib provinces.
All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to journalists.
In addition to fighting the Houthis and their allies in Yemen, the UAE helped the Arab coalition drive al-Qaeda from the southern coastal city of Mukalla in April.
ANALYSIS: How can wartorn Yemen find peace?
The US has provided military support, intelligence, ships and special operations forces to help the ongoing operations against al-Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
American special operations forces have also been advising the Yemeni, Emirati and Arab coalition forces in the region.
The UAE, which has one of the best-equipped militaries in the region, suffered numerous losses over the past year of fighting in Yemen, including four pilots killed in two separate helicopter crashes this week.
Government media reports say more than 80 Emirati soldiers have been killed since operations began there on March 26, 2015.
In September, 45 Emirati troops were killed by a rebel missile attack, marking the deadliest day for its military in its 44-year history.
The government has not made clear the numbers of Emirati troops serving in Yemen.
The United Nations said in February that at least 2,800 civilians have been killed and more than 5,300 wounded since the coalition operation began.
The coalition has been criticised by rights groups and aid organisations for the deaths of hundreds of Yemeni civilians in air strikes.