Multiple Effects of Liberating and Securing Shabwa


Sun, 06-02-2022 04:41 PM, Aden

Farida Ahmed (Analysis File 1-6)

Over just ten days since the beginning of January 2022, the “Southern Giants Brigades” along with “Shabwa Defense Forces” resolved the battle for liberating the three districts of Shabwa, “Beihan, Usaylan and Ain” in South Yemen, backed by the Arab Coalition, especially the UAE. In September last year, the Houthis controlled the three districts when the local authority was led by the Islah party’s member, Mohamed Saleh Bin Adyo, who was replaced in late December with the prominent tribal leader “Awad Al-Wazir Al Awlaki" who became the new Shabwa Governor.

The former local authority, represented by the Islah Party, which is ideologically affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, had to expect that its role came to an end after the Houthis controlled some Shabwa’s districts, especially that senior military leaders in the army[1] previously accused the “National Army '' and the “Special Security Forces '' of handing over the Shabwa's districts to the Houthis without remarkable resistance.

This has been justified due to previous collaboration between the Iran-backed Houthis and the Islah Party. This was not limited to Shabwa but included Marib and Al Bayda districts, as confirmed by earlier facts on the ground and by a political source in Marib. [2] 

It should be said that achieving a military victory in the Shabwa Battle in such record time is attributed to two central notions, the first of which is the Southern Forces’ genuine willingness and might to liberate the governorate’s districts from the Houthi control amid the poor management of the battles by the previous local authority. The second notion is the excellent quality of organization, implementation, and military efficiency enjoyed by the “Southern Giants” in comparison with the “National Army,” which faces a leakage problem among its members, as well as the spread of financial and administrative corruption within its system according to previous reports submitted to the Arab Coalition.[3]

Correcting the path at both political and military sides in Shabwa could encourage other Northern governorates to follow suit, especially Marib, the last bastion of the internationally-recognized Hadi government in North Yemen, which faces similar Houthi threats against its districts. 

However, this raises questions whether the Hadi Government and its army are willing to end the war militarily against the Houthis apart from keeping their remaining territories, and about the extent of their actual participation in the battle dubbed as “Liberation of Happy Yemen,”[4] after several months of military floundering and lethargy since The Houthis began to move towards Marib.


Dynamic effect

The political and military dynamics in Shabwa could affect several aspects, including security, economic and social ones with the entry of the Southern "Giants” to Shabwa and its weighting of the military balance in favor of the Southern Forces as well as the subsequent extension of its operations outside the governorate’s borders. 

Both political and military cases have a direct connection with other aspects. Previously, the troubled general conditions impacted the solidity of social relations and community communication. A state of tension prevailed among the residents who have been divided between supporters and opponents of the local authority’s policies, led by “Ben Adyo” for more than three years. He isolated Shabwa from Aden and Hadramout, which became connected to Marib and different fields after the August 2019 events. 

Practically, the end of political and military chaos in Shabwa will gradually remove the state of societal tension. Those estimates, as a whole, could impact the freedom of organizational work related to each political party based on programs, not political conflict. 

The STC’s role in Shabwa is likely to witness a big boost as being the most active and organized political party capable of communicating with local communities in South Yemen, especially with the regression of the roles played by other political parties. 

Therefore, the STC’s popularity base in Shabwa could extend after a long period of hostility and harsh restrictions against its activities imposed by previous authorities which used to pursue its activists. 

Furthermore, several violations were committed against the STC-affiliated “Shabwani Elite Forces” despite their significant role in maintaining the security and stability of the governorate and their good reputation among the Shabwani society. 

It became clear that the new local authority is wiser in dealing with complexities in Shabwa as it is more inclined to distance itself far from polarization or use its leaders for political influence. Moreover, this gives the political powers the freedom to move on the ground as the new administration refuses to act as a repressive tool in the hands of a particular party and tries to avoid repeating the mistakes of the former authority, which relied upon exploiting the state of conflict as well as a political, military and social conflict to enhance its existence. 

As for the security side, it is remarkable that the security stability in Shabwa returned after deposing the governor and the entry of the Giants Brigades and Shabwa Defense Forces. However, the “Special Security Forces,” which are accused of affiliating with the Islah Party, could act as a hotbed of security and military tension, especially that they are not directly subjected to the authority of the new Governor and receive their operational instructions from outside the governorate. 

This problem could be dealt with according to several possible scenarios[5], including changing Special Security Forces’ commanders and re-establishing them in a way that matches the objectives of the new local authority and its efforts to secure Shabwa, provided that they should operate under the control of Governor "Al-Awlaki" as he is also the Head of Security and Military Committee along with being Shabwa Governor. 

Moreover, those forces could be dismantled by drying up their resources and, the governorate’s treasury has approved since the Bin Adyo era. Additionally, the troops could be restructured as part of Shabwa’s police. Finally, the worst scenario is to dismantle and fragment them entirely by using military force to ensure that they won’t confuse the military and political scenes in the governorate. 

In return, those corrections would lead to the activation of the security structure, which has had no representation from a large number of Shabwa people, particularly those who oppose the former local authority and are affiliated with the Shabwani elite. This means that they will restore their security role on a larger scale due to their confirmed achievements and reliability related to efforts to secure the governorate, such as combating terrorism[6] and limiting the spread of weapons, smuggling operations, and other activities. 

As for the economic side in general, the new local authority has not presented a plan for its developmental and economic projects to determine how to work during the incoming period.[7] However, it can be said that the economic state could improve if Governor “Al Awlaki” succeeded in making reforms and changes within the governorate’s executive offices. This could happen by appointing general managers based upon their efficiency and experience to replace those who hold office through nepotism or during a political conflict. 

Making reforms in the administrative division and combating corruption could better employ Shabwa’s available resources and reduce the “military expenses” taken from the governorate’s resources during the “Bin Adyo” era to benefit military forces outside the Ministry of Defense. 

Those expenses could be saved and directed towards economic activities and developmental projects that serve different sectors in Shabwa, especially those that benefited the military forces deployed in Abyan’s Shuqrah, who kept up with the former local authority in its project to escalate towards Aden.


Exploitation of opportunities

There should be a deeper understanding of the strategic importance of South Yemen and continuing to support its trusted leaders. Shabwa developments provide a recent practical lesson as it seems that the Saudi-led Arab Coalition has a more profound vision, though rather late, about this importance and the extent of its impact on war balances. Correcting the political path in Shabwa, based upon the Riyadh Agreement, led to creating a new approach for running the governorate politically and militarily and avoiding making new mistakes added to the previous ones. Thus, it is in the interest of the Arab Coalition and the local community in Shabwa to maintain those strategic gains. 

These equations are related to the Houthi threat, which requires different strategic prospects by the Arab Coalition, especially after the military victories achieved by the “Southern Giants” in Shabwa and Harib in Marib. 

The Arab Coalition and the “Southern Giants” could face tests on some fronts which the “National Army runs.” This could provide a scrutinizing and careful strategy by the Southern military Forces participating in liberating Marib’s districts and ensuring that other forces exploit the previously wasted opportunities. This will be in conjunction with the decline of the Houthi power due to pressurizing them militarily from the air and the ground in more than one place. 

Ultimately, Although the Southern military forces, including the “Southern Giants,” don’t feel secure in fighting along with the “National Army Forces,” which attribute the Giants’ victories to themselves in the media coverage[8], those battles seem the only practical choice for the Southern Forces to secure their borders. However, it is not clear how the military conditions on Marib fronts will develop after turning off the page of Shabwa.

Executive Director of South24 Center
- Photo: Shabwa Governor visits wounded from the Giants Brigades, who were injured in a Houthi attack on Markha, late December 2021 (official)


[2] An interview conducted by the Writer in January 2022, with "Shaja' Husam Buhaibah", a political analyst from Marib during which he confirmed that the Houthis handed over areas in Marib to the Houthis without remarkable resistance, including the Ozlit Qanya on  the border between Marib and AlBayda, as well as the withdrawal from the Mahlia District. In addition to handing over sites in Nehm and AlJawf earlier.

[5]An exclusive statement from an official source in Shabwa Governorate to South24, January 2022

[7] An interview conducted by the writer in January 2022, with Dr. Hussein Bin Laqour, a political activist from Shabwa.

[8] The Yemeni army is achieving great victories over the Houthis on the Marib fronts (

ShabwaSouth YemenUAEAbu DhabiHouthi AttackSouthern Transitional CouncilSouthern Giants BrigadesYemen