USA: The Security Belt Forces Play an Important Role to Fight Terrorism


Fri, 17-12-2021 08:30 PM, Aden

Washington (South24)

A report issued by the US Department of State stressed that” Security Belt Forces loyal to the STC continued to play an important role in counter terrorism efforts” accusing forces affiliated with the Yemeni Government of not implementing Counter-Terrorism (CT) Measures in Yemen.

The US State Department's annual report on terrorism in 2020 added that “AQAP, ISIS-Yemen, and Iran-backed terrorist groups such as Hizballah and the IRGC-QF continued to exploit the political and security vacuum created by the ongoing conflict between the Republic of Yemen government under the leadership of President Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi, internationally recognized as the legitimate Government of Yemen, and Houthi militants, as well as the ongoing south-south conflict between the Republic of Yemen government and the Southern Transitional Council (STC)”.

The report, which was published by the US Department of State, on Thursday, said that Quds Force (QF)affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard Corps (RGC) continued to exploit the conflict to expand Iran’s influence in Yemen”. 

Reports by the UN and others have highlighted connections between the IRGC-QF and the Houthis, including the provision of lethal aid used by the Houthis to undertake attacks against critical infrastructure sites in Saudi Arabia. Media reports suggest that Hizballah may also be supporting the Houthi militants according to the report. 

Criticism against the Yemeni Government

“The Republic of Yemen government, in partnership with the Saudi-led coalition, controlled less Yemeni territory at the end of 2020 than it did in 2019. The Republic of Yemen government’s loss of control over additional parts of its territory resulted from political and military tensions in the South and Houthi advances in other governorates of the country.” the report added. 

It pointed out that “the STC temporarily declared self-administration between April and July, which was not recognized by the international community. However, negotiations to implement the 2019 Riyadh Agreement culminated in the December 30th return of a newly formed government to Aden, but this failed to eliminate tensions in the South, where AQAP and ISIS-Yemen maintained significant areas of influence”.

Meanwhile, the report said that “Houthi militants who controlled the de jure capital of Sana’a and surrounding northwest highlands, as well as the port city of Hudaydah, made key advances eastward and southward to parts of the governorates of al-Jawf, al-Bayda, and Ma’rib”.

“The Republic of Yemen government cooperated with the U.S. government on CT efforts. However, because of the instability and violence, as well as its own degraded capabilities, the Republic of Yemen government could not fully enforce CT measures or reliably undertake operations across the country” according to the report. 

“A large security vacuum persists, which provides AQAP and ISIS-Yemen room to operate” it said. 

Financing of Terrorism

As for countering the financing of terrorism, the report said that “the Republic of Yemen government-controlled Central Bank of Yemen (CBY) continued incremental efforts to implement International Monetary Fund Diagnostic Report recommendations to enhance AML(Money Laundering)/CFT capacity, but owing to a lack of judicial capacity and territorial control the Republic of Yemen government is unable to fully implement IMF recommendations and UNSCRs related to terrorist financing”.

Since 2010, FATF has identified Yemen as a risk to the international financial system because of its strategic AML/CFT deficiencies, and the Republic of Yemen government has limited capacity to resolve these deficiencies according to the report. 

For example, the report pointed out that “The Central Bank of Yemen in Aden sought transactional information from commercial banks for AML/CFT compliance. Commercial banks, however, resisted complying owing to Houthi pressure on their Sana’a-based bank headquarters”. 

In November, the Aden CBY referred some bank branch managers for criminal prosecution over their refusal to comply. Houthi leaders in Sana’a retaliated by dispatching security forces to seize computer servers and enforce a temporary closure of several large commercial banks. A mediated resolution saw Sana’a-based banks resume providing basic compliance information to CBY Aden, but not at the level of detail needed to meet international money laundering countering standards.

Security successes

The US Department of State’s Report said that “Although there were few countering terrorism gains in 2020, Yemeni security forces undertook a successful raid against suspected AQAP members in al-Mahra’s capital, al-Ghayda, on October 2, resulting in the death of three suspected terrorists and the arrest of two others”.

The annual report stressed that “Security Belt Forces loyal to the STC continued to play an important role in CT efforts, as they exercised control over significant parts of Aden, Abyan, and Shabwah”.

According to the report “ISIS-Yemen remained considerably smaller in size and influence compared with AQAP but remained operationally active and continued to claim attacks. AQAP remained active in central Yemen, most notably in al-Bayda, demonstrating its ability to move within the country.”

It pointed out that “Attacks attributed to AQAP and ISIS-Yemen decreased in 2020, compared with 2019”.

Moreover, the report talked about “Methods included suicide bombings, vehicle-borne IEDs, ambushes, armed clashes, kidnappings, and targeted assassinations.”

On August 15th, AQAP militants executed and then crucified a dentist in al-Bayda governorate and later bombed his clinic. AQAP accused him of participating in an alleged espionage network on behalf of the U.S., Saudi, and Emirati governments and the Houthi militia.

On August 27, AQAP militants executed six persons in al-Bayda. AQAP accused the victims of belonging to the Houthi militia.

On December 7, suspected AQAP militants killed six persons affiliated with the STC in Abyan governorate.

The UAE’s role

The report praised the UAE’s role in countering terrorism In Yemen, adding that “The UAE continued valuable support for counterterrorism efforts in Yemen against AQAP and ISIS-Yemen, including support to local forces in CT operations.”

“The United Arab Emirates advanced counterterrorism efforts in 2020, particularly in the field of countering terrorist financing. U.S.-UAE security agencies continued to finalize a new information sharing memorandum of cooperation to make travel safer. The UAE seeks to be a leader in countering violent extremist narratives on a global level, supporting CVE and participating in and hosting international fora to promote tolerance and coexistence” it added. 

The report indicated that Houthi militants in Yemen posed the greatest security threat to Saudi Arabia. Houthi attacks increased in frequency and sophistication over the year to include attacks with ballistic and cruise missiles, unmanned aerial systems, and unmanned surface ships” adding that “Saudi operations in Yemen included counterterrorism missions against AQAP and ISIS-Yemen”. 

The Middle East

According to the report, “terrorist groups remained a persistent and pervasive threat worldwide, despite counterterrorism successes by the United States and its partners. The Islamic State (ISIS) and al Qaeda largely relied on local affiliates to mount attacks around the world in 2020”. 

The number of terrorist attacks and related fatalities increased by more than 10 percent in 2020 compared with 2019, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in statement.

“These figures reflect, in part, the spread of ISIS branches and networks and al Qaeda affiliates, particularly in Africa.”

 In the Middle East and North Africa, jihadi militants found safe havens in ungoverned and contested areas in Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere. 

The report said that ISIS’S affiliates beyond Iraq and Syria caused more deaths in 2020 than in any previous year, as some 5000 persons were killed due to attacks attributed to ISIS in West Africa only in 2020.

The report stressed that Al Qaeda lost several senior leaders, including Abu Muhammad al Masri, the number two under central leader Ayman Zawahiri, who was gunned down in Tehran by unidentified assassins in the summer of 2020, Qassim al Rimi, the Emir of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), who was killed in a U.S. counterterrorism operation in Yemen in January and Abdelmalek Droukdel, the Emir of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), who was assassinated in a counterterrorism operation conducted jointly by France and local allies in Mali with the help of U.S. intelligence in June.

- South24 Center
- Southern forces loyal to the STC, during a military parade (Reuters)

Counter TerrorismSecurity Belt ForcesSTCSouth YemenAQAP ISIS Yemen