Map of Forces and Conflict Drivers in Taiz


Sat, 04-09-2021 12:49 AM, Aden Time

Taiz (South24) 

The governorate of Taiz has gained exceptional importance in the map of the Yemeni conflict, due to its key location, which makes it a vital transportation node between North and South, and its direct view of the Bab al-Mandab Strait, in addition to the political symbolism that the governorate enjoys as an active focus of intellectual and partisan movement that made it “resilient to justice.” Later, it turned into a complex arena of conflict that greatly intensifies the contradictions and intertwining of the Yemeni crisis.

Key players

There are three main forces in Taiz (Islah party, Houthi group, and the National Resistance) that shared geopolitical control over the governorate through their armed formations on the ground. In addition to this trio, there are some political and civil components seeking to influence the course of events, in addition to the forces of the STC which are located in some of the southwestern districts of the governorate, and despite their military influence, they have so far refused to play a proactive political role in the governorate, committed to its southern borders.

The Iran-backed Houthi group controls large parts of the east and north of the city (the districts of Sharaab Al-Runah, Sharaab Al-Salam, Maqbanna, Al-Taziah and Mawiyah) and parts of the west of the governorate (in the districts of Maqbana and Jabal Habashi), in addition to the districts of Haifan and Dimna Khadir in the southern countryside The eastern city of the governorate is imposing a suffocating siege on the city, which is no longer breathing except through one artery that connects it to the capital, Aden, in South.

On the other hand, the forces of Tariq Saleh (National Resistance), backed by the UAE, and operating within the joint forces, are located in the districts of the governorate on the western coast, with some units of the Southern forces shared with them in the districts of Mawza’ and Al-Wazi’iyah, which are close to the coastal districts of Mocha and Dhu Bab.

As for the Islah Party (the Yemeni branch of the Muslim Brotherhood), it imposes complete control, especially in terms of military and security, over the rest of the governorate (and under the cover of the Yemeni government), as its militias and forces loyal to it are stationed in the center and west of the city and large parts of the neighborhoods southeast of the city, and the old city that The forces of the Salafi leader known as "Abu al-Abbas" (1) were stationed there, from which he was expelled on accusations that he was loyal to the Emirates (2). Then, "Islah" expanded its full control over the directorates of the southern countryside of Taiz known as "Al-Hujariya", after the assassination of Brigadier General Adnan Al Hammadi, commander of the 35th Armored Brigade at the end of 2019, and invaded the region months later, with large forces accused of being funded by Qatar (3) and Turkey (4), in particular what is known as the “Popular Mobilization Forces” (5) which was founded by the leader of the Islah Party, Hammoud Saeed Al-Mikhlafi (6), under the supervision of the Taiz Military Axis, with the aim of controlling Al-Hijriyah and expanding towards the western coast and South. (7)

Expanding influence and tightening control

Since mid-2017, the government forces in Taiz have not engaged in any real military operation against the Houthis, specifically after the Islah party began to control the joints of the military and security institutions, and made many changes in the army and security, removing leaders believed to be hostile to it and empowering elements "Incompetent", and combat operations continued to range between hit and run in the vicinity of Tabat al-Silal on the eastern and the northern fronts of the city. (8)

Islah had also formed many military units (9) without a presidential approval, and limited the scene of their operations away from the leadership of the 4th Military Region, within whose scope Taiz falls, and entrusted its leadership to its elements from outside the army, which declared its allegiance to legitimacy. He also assigned the tasks of commanding the battalions in the units affiliated with the Taiz military axis to the sons of the leaders of the axis, people with “priorities”, wanted people and some “escaped” from prisons (10), in order to facilitate the process of controlling them and directing them to implement its plans and agendas in the governorate, according to observers, and among these units The "4th Brigade, Mountain Infantry", which clearly revealed the party's tendency "to take control of Al-Hujjariya" (11) at the expense of the 35th Armored Brigade, which Al-Islah classified as the top of the list of obstacles that limit the expansion of its influence and control.

Following the invasion of Al-Hujariya on August 22, 2020, the Islah party deployed hundreds of its gunmen and forces loyal to it in the operations of the 35th Armored Brigade, and took control of the strategic heights in the area, which overlook South (12). He also tried to expand in Al-Sabiha areas, specifically in the district of Tur Al-Baha, and formed a military axis in it without an official announced decision (13), and entrusted its leadership to a party member called Abu Bakr Al-Jaboli (14), who worked as a teacher, and was previously appointed by the Islah as the commander of the brigade. The fourth is mountainous infantry, and it attracted dozens of locals and included them in the forces of the new axis (15). To this day, Islah is still trying to create potential lines of confrontation with its "arch-enemy" the STC in the region, but the Riyadh Agreement curbs all its plans and ambitions, especially towards South until now, as observers confirm.

Change the course of the conflict

Observers say that the Islah party wraps its movements and endeavors to expand its influence with the cover of “legitimacy” backed by a huge “media machine” local as well as external linked to the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood, in addition to its harnessing of the official media, including channels, newspapers, and websites, to justify its orientations and movements, and to show that it is in The context of the battle to restore the state and confront the Houthis, and attack any voice that is different and opposed to these movements.

Observers point out that many of the senior leaders of the General People's Congress Party, affiliated with Taiz, support the Islah Party in its orientations and disregard everything it plans, after ensuring that it continues its interests and some of the privileges it enjoyed during the era of the previous regime. Among these leaders are Rashad Al-Alimi, who is the advisor to the Yemeni President, the current governor of the province, Nabil Shamsan, the former governor of Ali Al-Maamari, Sultan Al-Barakani, the current speaker of the outgoing parliament, and a member of the House of Representatives, Mohammad Muqbel Al-Hamiri, and other local leaders associated with them, most notably the governor's deputy, Aref Jamil, in addition to some of the leaders of other parties in the province. This gave the Islah party a "cover" to move freely in Taiz, as they point out.

Since the assassination of Al-Hammadi, and the previous “smear campaigns” adopted by Islah party activists against him (16), and the control of the operations of the 35th Brigade that he was leading, in terms of empowering his “militias”, analysts confirm that “Reform” tendencies are now limited to expansion. To the west, and positioning itself in preparation for the march towards South (17), pointing out that the party forgot the "great and existential battle" against the Houthi group. This is what was revealed by the last operation launched by the Taiz axis, during which it moved on two axes: the first from the west in the areas of Maqbna and al-Kadha in al-Ma’afer and Jabal Habashi, all of which are areas overlooking the western coast. The second was to South and focused on the areas of Haifan in Al-Ahkoum and Al-Aboos, all of which overlook the Southern regions of Lahij Governorate. The operation was under the guise of completing the liberation of the province from the "Houthi militia", which is the general project around which the forces supporting the "legitimacy of Yemen" in Taiz gathered.

Many military experts are of the view that the battle with the Houthis and the liberation of Taiz from their control takes different paths than that of the Axis and the Islah Party, who "harvested all the capabilities and resources of the governorate in violation of the law (18) where corruption and looting of public money prevail for this process," which according to these experts “The schemes and ambitions of Islah only serve to expand its influence,” during which many fighters and capabilities were wasted. They stressed that if the operation had gone by two different paths: the first from the side of eastern Sabr and Dimna Khadir and As-Silw districts, reaching Al-Rahda, southeast of Taiz, and cutting the Houthi supply line to Haifan, and the second: by penetrating the Al-Rubaie area to reach Al-Sittin and cutting the Houthi supply lines to Maqbna, which was It will fall with him automatically.” And with constant pressure, the forces would have made rapid advances and the two paths could meet at one point, which is the direction towards the Hawban area. However, the reform calculations, according to analysts, were going to other options that did not mean the liberation battle in anything, as much as they meant “his plans.” and its agendas toward the west and South coasts.

Civilian forces with a narrow margin

The war largely confiscated the political sphere for most of the political and civil forces, and with the liberation of parts of the governorate center and some of its directorates, these forces began to move in an attempt to contribute to the normalization of the situation and the restoration of state institutions (19), but, as civil leaders and activists assert, they collided with the “invasion of the Islah Party” (20) on all the joints of the state’s civil and military institutions, and his “evasion of many benefits that enhance political partnership,” and these forces have received many accusations of treason (21) just because they demanded fundamental reforms in the civil and military administrative apparatus, in terms of strengthening the presence of the state and eliminating the Imbalances and manifestations of corruption practiced by the governorate's civil and military leaders, as they put it.

Recently, political blocs comprising civil forces, led by the Socialist and Nasserist parties, and a current from the People's Congress party "anti-"reform domination"" have emerged along with civil society organizations. This bloc organized a mass demonstration under the name "Enough Movement" (22), calling for changes Reality in the structure of the local authority, the army and security, and the mobilization of resources towards completing the liberation battles. This variable created a new equation based on the “3 + 1” basis, but these forces are still moving in a narrow margin of maneuver, and they cannot, as analysts point out, turn into a major player in the conflict current in the foreseeable future. 

Khalil Zakri
Yemeni journalist and writer

Photo: The ceremony of receiving the 35th Armored Brigade by Governor Nabil Shamsan, after the battles and the assassination of Brigade Commander Adnan Al-Hammadi, July 2020 (Taiz Today)