The Attack on Al-Anad Military Base: Dimensions and Repercussions


Wed, 01-09-2021 09:34 AM, Aden Time


On the morning of Sunday, August 29th, Al-Anad Military Base, located in the governorate of Lahij, north west of the capital, Aden, was subjected to a missile attack by drones which were launched from the Yemeni city of Taiz, controlled by the Houthis. The attack resulted in killing about 40 soldiers and injuring 60 others, according to medical and military sources.

This is the third attack during the last three years since the eruption of the Yemeni War. The first one was in Jan. 2019, by an Iranian-Made drone during a military show, which killed 6 elements of the Yemeni Army, top of whom were the southern commanders Saleh Qaid and Mohammed Tammah, and 20 others were wounded. The second attack happened in August. 1ST of the same year, with a ballistic missile and a drone that targeted The Jalaa Military Camp,  during a ceremony to celebrate the graduation of a new batch of soldiers,  that led to the  killing 30 of them, as well as Munir Al Yafei, the then 1st Brigade Commander of the Security Belt Forces.

It can be said that   Al-Anad Military Base, located in the north of Al Houta, the capital of Lahij governorate, has a symbolic importance for the southerners, as it is one of the biggest military bases in South Yemen before and after the unity. It is also one of the historical military air bases founded by the British, and is 60 km away from the capital, Aden. The base includes a runway, armories; annex residential building for pilots, as well as a training camp and maintenance workshops for the military planes and the heavy equipment. Previously, the Americans used it as a launch point for drones in order to track the AQAP elements.

In Spite of the tragic attack, no party has yet declared responsibility of committing it, including the Houthis themselves who were being accused by the Southern Forces commanders of being behind the attack. There have been similar accusations from President Hadi who promised that the Houthis will pay a heavy price for each crime they commit against the Yemeni people, according to Saba News Agency.

The dimensions of the attack

While the regional parties are trying to settle the outstanding political and military files, and to restore its inter-relations, the local parties in Yemen are still making up more conflict hotbeds. There are various shapes of the conflict, the worst of which is the mass killing operations, like what happened in Al-Anad Military Base by targeting dozens of soldiers.

Before mentioning the reasons behind Al-Anad Military Base attack, which targeted soldiers affiliated with the 3rd Brigade Giants, analysts and military figures don’t rule out its connection with the internal conflicts of 3rd Brigade Giants over the last period. 

Brigadier General Abdul Rahman Al-Lahji was the Commander of the 3rd Brigade Giants before being succeeded by Commander Ali Nasser, dubbed as “Abu Aisha” who were accused by military figures of trying to lead a coup against the Giant Forces, and the engagement with the Muslim Brotherhood (M.B) in Taiz. 

Sources told “South24” that “Abu Aisha” smuggled heavy weapons, belonging to the 3rd Brigade as well as tens of military vehicles and some soldiers to Taiz. This led to his removal from office by the Commander of the Giants Forces in the Western Coast, and appointing Nabil Al Radfani, dubbed as “Abu Harb” to succeed him.

Despite this tense background, the new 3rd Brigade’s command organized a military training course for the remaining elements as a part of the usual tasks. Ultimately, they were targeted by a missile coming from the governorate of Taiz which borders Lahij.

Some observers believe that in order to reduce the human casualties, it was necessary to distribute the military personnel into small factions, or  select small training camps to separate factions while training, to disperse them at sleeping times, and to make them eat in places that are far from each other. Military sources confirmed that the attack happened while the soldiers were in residence and not during the training. In general, the commanders had to take security and military measures against any threats encountering the soldiers in the camps, whether by holding events, gatherings and others, especially within the vital and strategic important locations that are expected to be targeted at any moment amid this state of war.

Intelligent and defensive failure

Several sources indicate that the Al-Anad Base attack is related to an intelligence conspiracy between the Houthis and the MB. (the Islah Party) in Taiz, as the main target of the attack were the southern camps. 

The Houthi attacks have long targeted the camps led by the southerners, even those belonging to the National Army, led by Hadi. For example, on Jan. 2020, the Houthis targeted a camp belonging to Brigadier General Mahran Al Qubati that killed more than 100 people, most of them from Abyan governorate. Also in Abyan, camps belonging to southern commanders in Mudiyah District, killing dozens in spite of the presence of brigades and camps, affiliated with the Defense Minister Al Maqdashi, and the Vice President Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar in the same area, but the Houthis bombed certain locations carefully and accurately. This reveals a kind of conspiracy between the two parties that enhance their basic goal to get rid of some southern commanders and personnel in the National Army, or for other undeclared strategic calculations to exploit the governmental cover in such operations, described by southern analysts as “perfidious”.

It doesn’t seem that such a conspiracy between the Houthis and the Yemeni Islah party is the only reason that facilitates the occurrence of such deadly attacks, as the absence of military coordination between the Arab coalition forces and the Giant Forces’ commanders and other southern armed forces under the STC leadership, is another reason behind the failure and the big intelligence penetration that led to this painful outcome.

In parallel, it does not seem that the southern military commanders have sufficient databases to assess the capabilities, equipment, and plans of their opponents in the field. Although the southern forces include veteran officers and commanders in their ranks, they have not been used to boost military intelligence work, given the extent of risks relevant to such attacks, in addition to the lack of a joint military and emergency operations room.

Currently, the full dependence on the Arab Coalition’s leadership to prevent the occurrence of such attacks is something that should be reconsidered, given the prior failure of the coalition to provide reliable intelligence information or even protect the government, sponsored by Riyadh, from deadly attack upon its arrival at Aden last December. One reason for that is the coalition's dependence for managing its operations on the ground, on military parties which have large connections with the Houthis. That is why fronts, towns and entire governorates fell down in the hands of the Iran-backed “rebels”.

One of the main factors that contribute in the continuation of such bloody attacks in Aden and South Yemen is the coalition’s lack of response to provide air defense systems and effective specific weapons contrary to what it has done in areas under the control of the National Army, which is basically managed by the “M.B in Yemen”. Although all parties called upon the coalition for providing such deterrent military equations, it has not responded. On Monday, the call was repeated again by the STC. Moreover, the KSA, which sponsors the Riyadh Agreement, is working constantly to arm and develop the capabilities of the forces affiliated with the Yemeni Vice President although a large part of them were fell down in the hands of the Houthis and the radical groups, while it has not provided any kind of support for the Southern Forces. 

The Repercussions of Al-Anad Military Base Attack

The general situation in Yemen reveals that it is on its way to a more severe stage of the conflict. It seems that the horizons of an all-out solution are still far-fetched on many political levels, through the failure to reach a firm settlement among the disputing parties, or military levels by the inability of all parties to achieve a decisive military victory. However, it is more likely that such a military decisiveness will be in favor of the Houthis given their advance in the last bastions of Hadi government in North. The lack of decisiveness hinders the international community’s efforts towards peace.

Although the Southern Military Command stressed that the Houthi attack on Al-Anad reflects their inability to advance in the front's fields and their repeated defeats on their borders with South, their missile and drone capabilities remain a current and strategic challenge unless this existing danger is neutralized.

Accordingly, some points could be extracted as follow:

•The lack of decisiveness in the battle fronts, and the deterioration of the military situation in the fronts of the Arab Coalition and the National Army, controlled by the Islah party, makes it more likely that the Houthis are on their way to open direct fronts of conflicts against South. Thus, the southern military commanders, led by the STC, are required to take all security and military measures for such a scenario.

•The lack of military decisiveness and the constant failure of the coalition and the National Army, in areas controlled by the Hadi government, made people lost trust in the coalition which seems to disavow its military commitments in Yemen.

• The development of the conflict to worse stages predicts a possible rise of "extremist organizations", such as AQAP and ISIS to the forefront again.

•The southern military commanders, especially the STC’s leaders need to review their alliances to be balanced and equivalent politically and militarily.

•Setting up air defense strategies, establishing specialized industrial units to develop the defense system as well as getting use of the modern technology would, in the long-term, create a balance of deterrence, and prevent, or at least reduce, the recurrence of such deadly attacks that target the military personnel and civilians.

*(A political and military Analyst who requested anonymity)
-Photo: taken on Tuesday, March 24, 2015, when local forces took control of Al-Anad Air Base, after expelling the Houthis. (AP)

Al-Anad BaseSouthern ForcesSouth YemenHouthi AttackSTC