Shabwa Liberation Battle: A New Strategy for the Coalition and Southern Forces


Sun, 02-01-2022 01:55 PM, Aden

Ataq (South24) 

Early Saturday morning, a large-scale military operation was launched in Shabwa governorate, South Yemen, led by the Southern Giants Forces backed by the Saudi-led Coalition in Yemen, as part of a new war strategy and amid the spread of "Shabwa Defense Forces" in the governorate capital, Ataq. 

Military officials and media sources stated that forces from the Giants Forces launched a major military attack on the Houthi rebels located in Usaylan district of Shabwa governorate.

According to the military spokesperson for the Southern forces Mohammad al-Naqib, the Giants Forces advanced in large parts of the district and took control of its main center.

A press source said that the advancement of the Giants Forces came amid the retreat of the Houthi members towards "Al-Hima junction", the last confrontation site in the district.

Al-Arabiya TV correspondent in Shabwa, Radfan Al-Dubais, said that two military vehicles were burnt near the Al-Hima junction and Al-Akda area in Usaylan. He pointed out that the field military operations were accompanied by air strikes of the Coalition planes.

Later on Saturday evening, the commander of the Giants Forces, Abu Zara'a al-Muharrami, announced "the success of the first phase of operation "South Tornado", launched by the Giants, with the liberation of Usaylan district."

The governor of Shabwa, Awad Al-Wazir, announced in a tweet the liberation of the entire district of Usaylan from the Houthis control.

No comments were made by the Houthis in regards to these developments at the time of writing this report. 

The Giant Forces accused the Houthis of being behind a missile attack on Ataq Airport last Tuesday night. Military officials furthermore accused the Houthis, on Thursday, of bombing a camp in which the Giants Forces were located in Lower Markhah, killing at least 7 soldiers and wounding 15 others.

Shabwa Defense Forces (Shabwa Elite Forces)

Meanwhile, a large military force (60 vehicles) called the "Shabwa Defense Force" arrived from the city of Mukalla in Hadramout.

STC official Mohammad Al-Ghaithi, tweeted pictures of a large convoy of these forces which included armored military vehicles.

Local sources affiliated to the STC told "South24" that they were deployed in several vital facilities including Ataq Airport to maintain security.

Military experts believe that these forces include the former Shabwa Elite Forces, which were defeated in the August 2019 battles, after the pro-Islamist forces (Islah Party) took control of large parts of Shabwa.

Dozens of citizens went out to receive the new forces and raised the flags of the former state of South Yemen.

The Shabwa Elite Forces played a prominent role in the fight against terrorism in Shabwa. During the years 2017 and 2018, they were able to purify the governorate from al-Qaeda members with UAE support.

The US State Department's 2019 report on terrorism praised the role of these forces. The Foreign Ministry's 2020 report reiterated its praise for the pro-STC security forces in counter-terrorism efforts.

Coalition strategy

These military and security developments come in light of a new military strategy for the Saudi-led Coalition, following meetings with the STC leadership and parties within the internationally recognized Yemeni government, and following meetings between UAE and Saudi military officials.

Military sources said that the goal of the military operations in Shabwa is to liberate the northern Beihan districts in Shabwa from Houthi's control. These districts fell to the Houthis on September 21 after a sudden withdrawal of pro-Islah government forces without a resistance.

The Military and Security Affairs Adviser at the South24 Center for News and Studies, Brigadier General Thabet Hussein Saleh, believes that the liberation of Beihan districts in Shabwa is primarily "a victory for the Southern forces and a defeat for the Houthis, who wanted to make a breakthrough towards South, as well as a defeat for the Muslim Brotherhood [Islah Party], who handed over these areas".

In September and last October, the Houthis also took control of the southern districts of Marib governorate. The last stronghold of the internationally recognized government in North Yemen.

Thabet, a veteran military analyst, said that the first step in changing the Coalition's strategy for its military operations in Yemen began with the redeployment of forces in the West Coast. It is, according to the military expert, "a strategy based on the ruins of a previous strategy of the Coalition, which was based on mechanisms and tools that proved to be unsuccessful."

Thabet considered that this strategy, which was accompanied by the decision to dismiss the former governor of Shabwa Mohammad bin Adyo, and the appointment of a consensual governor was imposed by a state of "failure" on one hand and as a result of the pressures exerted by the STC and the popular escalation in Hadramout and Shabwa on the other hand.

The military expert believes that the liberation of the Beihan districts in Shabwa would also change the nature of the battles course in Marib and other areas.

Thabet believes that there is a major shift in the course of the war that would pave the way for the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement and prepare the battle against the Houthis, and put the "legitimacy forces" before two choices, either siding with the Southern forces or siding with the Houthis. He pointed out that there is a third option to "neutralize" as happened in Shabwa, or it may happen in Taiz.

He believes that these strategic developments in the path of the Coalition's vision "were also imposed by international pressures due to the prolongation of the war with the deterioration of the humanitarian situation and without the prospect of a military or political solution."

Yemen is experiencing a civil war for the seventh year in a row, which has had extensive economic and humanitarian consequences on the lives of millions of Yemenis who are now threatened with starvation or death in the worst humanitarian disaster in the world, according to the United Nations. 

South24 Center for News and Studies
Photo: Shabwa Defense Forces arriving in Ataq, raising flags of South Yemen, Saturday, January 1, 2022 (activists) 

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