Rashad Al-Alimi with Aidrous Al-Zubaidi and the GCC Secretary-General on April 7, 2022 (The Independent Arabia)

Rashad Al-Alimi Military Decisions: Legality, Motives and Ramifications


Sat, 18-02-2023 11:36 AM, Aden Time

Farida Ahmed (South24)

At the end of last January, the Chairman of the Presidential Leadership Council (PLC) Rashad Al-Alimi, issued a presidential decree to form new military units called the “Nation Shield Forces” which will be under his direct leadership. 

Article 2 of the decree stipulated that “Al-Alimi, as the Supreme Commander of Yemen’s Armed Forces has the legitimate right to determine the number of these forces, their tasks, and the place of their military operations in an upcoming order issued only by him”. Article 3 stipulated that these units shall abide by the armed forces' law of service and other relevant legislations as well as with the directives of the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. Al-Alimi also issued a decree appointing Brigadier Bashir Saif Qaid Al-Subaihi as Commander of the newly formed “Nation Shield Forces”

For PLC, which has been in place for 8 months without achieving any remarkable progress, it was an expected decree. This is due to the discrepancies among its members, the disparity of their political approaches and their different programs. However, from the legal aspect, and according to paragraph (g) of the power transfer declaration statement on April 7th, 2022, PLC Chairman has the exclusive right to be the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. Paragraph (k) of the statement stipulates that taking joint decisions requires consensus by PLC members. This applies to what was issued recently by "Al-Alimi'' regarding the formation of "Nation Shield Forces". Although it was said that the decree was not adopted unanimously, its legality cannot be disputed without a clear objection from PLC members or by filing a complaint to refute it. There has been no clear evidence, apart from claims by media and supporters, that other PLC members oppose the decision. 

Al-Alimi's issuance of the decision has been tied to his confidence that those who oppose it will be unable to gather 5 votes within PLC to invalidate it. However, those who criticize the decision argue that Al-Alimi trespassed the aforementioned consensus rule. Moreover, presidential decisions should be approved first by the council. PLC Chairman can only issue a decision in the wake of the council’s approval on it and not before it. In other words, the council’s approval of a decision must precede its issuance by the Chairman and not vice versa.

The formation motives 

The idea of forming “Nation Shield Forces” is not a new one. It goes back to the time when “Southern Giants” liberated three districts in Shabwa in early 2022. Initially, the forces were known as the “New Giants.” However, most of their leaders belong to the former "Southern Giants Brigades” and others from the “Happy Yemen Forces" established by Saudi Arabia after the battles to liberate Shabwa. In September 2022, the name of the forces changed into the “Nation Shield Forces”. Consequently, the name stirred much controversy within the Yemeni circles whether these emerging forces are actually as big as their name, especially since "Nation Shield Forces" are made up of eight military brigades and most of their members hail from Southern governorates. Additionally, the places of their operations spread from Aden, Abyan, Hadramout and Lahj. Labels of this kind are usually related to forces that encompass the nation with all its governorates and not limited to certain areas. 

Paradoxically, Salafist “Nation Shield Forces” do not have enough combat experience because they are newly- formed forces according to military experts. However, they resemble their peers in structure and brigades. They also receive a lot of technical and logistic support from Saudi Arabia as well as having weapons and military vehicles. Additionally, their troops receive regular salaries from Riyadh. 

The next table includes the names of “Nation Shield Forces” commanders:



Bashir Saif Qaid Al-Subaih

Commander of “Nation Shield Forces” and the former Commander of Salafist “Aden Resistance” in 2015.

Bassam Bin Mihdar Al Yafei, known as Bassam Al Mihdar

Chief of Staff and Deputy Commander. Former Commander of Mihdar Brigade affiliated with “Giants Brigades”

Ali Al-Shammi Al-Subaihi

Commander of “Nation Shield Forces” Axes Brigades and former Commander of the “14th Giants Brigade”

Murad Jubeh Al-Subaihi

Commander of “Nation Shield Forces” Operations and former commander of the 6th Giants Brigade

Table (1) according to military sources who spoke to “South24 Center” 

The next table includes the names of Commanders of the "Shield of the Nation" brigades:



Positioning range

Majdi Mounadel Al-Subaihi

Commander of the 1st Brigade, and former Commander of the 2nd Giants Brigade B.


Tawfiq Abboud Al-Mashouli

Commander of the 2nd Brigade and former Commander in the “Southern Giants”


Abdrabbuh Nasser Al-Raqabi

Commander of the 3rd Brigade and former Commander of Al-Hazemia Front

Abyan, Al-Bayda

Abdulkhaliq Ali Al-Kalouli

Commander of the 4th Brigade and former Axis Commander in the “Giants Brigades”


Fahd Salem Issa Bammomen

Commander of the 5th Brigade. He is a Salafist leader who studies in the Dammaj Center.


Mohammed Abu Bakr Al-Kazemi

Commander of the 6th Brigade and former Chief of Staff of the 5th Giants Brigade.

Abyan, Aden

Ali Shutari

Commander of the 7th Brigade. He studied in Sheikh Rashad Al-Dhalei Center


Osama Al-Rafdani

Commander of the 8th Brigade. A Salafist leader who studied in the Dammaj Center.


Table (2) - According to military sources who spoke to “South24 Center” 
In general terms, it does not seem that these brigades will be the only ones. It is expected that other brigades and forces affiliated with “Nation Shield Forces” will be formed. This is considering frequent news that “Nation Shield Forces” will replace the forces of the First Military District affiliated with the Islah party in Al-Wadeah crossing and probably in the valley and desert of Hadramout (Wadi and Sahara). For years, Hadrami forces and STC have pushed for driving out these forces to be replaced by the Hadrami Elite forces. 

Moreover, among the reasons behind this are the Saudi concerns that the current military balance of power on the ground would make it lose the privilege of influencing Yemeni affairs. This is considering the control held by forces allied with the UAE on large swaths in the areas controlled by the “Internationally recognized government.” For Riyadh, while Abu Dhabi, since the beginning of Arab Coalition’s intervention in Yemen, managed to form strong and organized local allies that contributed to free large areas from the Houthi grip, Saudi Arabia failed in building allegiance with the forces it supported to fight the Houthis in North Yemen. KSA discovered that the forces it funded pledged their allegiance towards the Islamic Islah party "the Muslim Brotherhood branch in Yemen" who are almost considered KSA's regional and international foes. Thus, the Muslim Brotherhood has enhanced their military position in addition to what they enjoyed over decades. They made up for what they lost due to the Houthi coup in Sanaa.

Accordingly, the map of the military regional impact in Yemen has been divided as follows:

It includes the Houthis who have been associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the forces affiliated with the Islah party who controlled the "legitimate army" and the Saudi support over the past years. It also includes the forces who were formed via Emirati direct support such as STC forces, the “Southern Giants Brigades” and “Republican Guards” in the western coast. Although Abu Dhabi withdrew its military forces from Yemen in 2019 for strategic and tactical reasons, its logistic and military support for its allies has remained in place. This point is seen by Saudi Arabia as one that might weaken its position in the face of the Emirati influence, especially considering the war of debates between Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. This war has been clear recently through a group of writers and activists from the two countries on social media platforms. However, Riyadh seeks to cover its military deficit in Yemen on the ground by deducting from the balance of its allied UAE in the face of the escalation of hostile and opposing forces (the Houthis and the Muslim Brotherhood) as a faster and less costly option than trying to curtail their influence. 

Naturally, it seems that Al-Alimi’s latest military decisions came with Saudi direct instructions. Furthermore, PLC’s contrasts in some important and main decisions pushed Al-Alimi to issue the latest without securing the council’s consensus. Helpfully, the forces opposing STC used media platforms to establish a mental image that offends the man as a chairman. They seek to blow up the apparent understanding between “Rashad Al-Alimi” and “Aidrous Al-Zubaidi” by depicting the first as a figurehead and as an employee who implements STC’s agendas and goals in the capital, Aden, Shabwa and others. Al-Alimi’s background as Professor of Sociology helped him to understand the dimensions of such a mental image in society. The other parties continued to entrench such a negative and weak image. This led him ultimately to shift from an unarmed chairman to an armed one who has military power like other forces in PLC. 

The positions of other parties

Al-Alimi’s unilateral decision to establish “Nation Shield Forces” may disturb the activities of the Supreme Military and Security Committee established in May last year. This may shuffle its cards after a long course of field tours and meetings before the issuance of the results and recommendations. Accordingly, many Southerners expressed their dismay towards Al-Alimi’s latest decisions. Many of them demonstrated such feelings recently via the media. They include many supporters of STC which has not announced its official stance towards these decisions yet. STC supporters called it to exit what they called “the grey area.” These decisions had been preceded by a big media wave and an organized campaign launched by Saudi tweeters in which they belittled the capabilities of STC as well as its affiliated military forces and doubted their allegiances. This emanated from the main campaign against Abu Dhabi since STC is one of its close allies. 

Furthermore, the Southern popular and political rejection of “Nation Shield Forces” has been based upon a conviction that there is no need for additional Southern forces who may have non-Southern objectives. They are not affiliated with PLC which includes Southern members nor with the Ministry of Defense. They are exclusively subordinate to the PLC Chairman himself. Additionally, their slogans are related to the concept of “the Republic of Yemen''. This explicitly contradicts the Southerners’ ambitions to restore their own state. On the other hand, other Southern voices emerged who sought to calm down the wave opposing the changes. They want to prepare the Southerners to accept the decisions given that STC, the biggest political and military entity in South Yemen, did not oppose the idea of forming these forces from the very beginning. 

In the near future, for many Southerners, the establishment of new military forces may disturb the anti-Houthi power balance for two reasons: The first one is that these forces are not based on national principles which represent the popular incubator and the general mood of South Yemen. The Second is that Saudi Arabia is the one which will practically manage these forces as it contributed to forming them from day one. Then, it supported Al-Alimi’s decision in addition to paying the salaries of their troops. Even if these steps on the surface give the "legitimacy camp" an additional power alongside other forces, there are concerns regarding their counter future repercussions. This includes paving the way to alienate Southern influential forces at both security and military levels who have achieved stability in their areas under their control. This is particularly the case if the emerging forces are used for purposes that do not serve the South Yemen issue and its representatives' endeavors extended since before the 2014 conflict. Additionally, there are other warnings at several political, security, economic and social levels that were discussed in a previous paper issued by “South24 Center”. 

It is important to say that following the subsidence of political and military scenes in the second half of last year and after the Houthis refused to renew the truce which has been frozen as a de-facto matter after it was expired in early October of that year, Riyadh has adopted individual unilateral approaches with the Houthis to prolong it by using back channels through regional and international mediators that have sought to facilitate the Houthi conditions. This has led to more tension between Saudi Arabia and the anti-Houthi forces in Aden, especially as it is limited to bilateral negotiations for months. This may pave the way for a hasty peace that has the same line which ignores the interests of the main influential forces in the scene. There are measures launched by Riyadh in a secret and undisclosed manner to revoke or reduce inspecting the ships entering the port of Hodeidah to the minimum. These measures will have tangible repercussions on the activities of the strategic port of Aden in South Yemen. Simultaneously, the inspection mechanism remains the same in the port of Jeddah to the port of Aden. Moreover, the Yemeni PM increased the price of the customs dollar in the ports of Aden and Mukalla.

These procedures are considered a Saudi risk due to several reasons, the most important of which is the Houthi and Iranian unreliability regarding sticking to any agreements and exploiting them to strengthen their military and political position for a next tour of conflict. This threatens the Yemeni internal situation and goes beyond it to threaten the external stance and the regional states. 

For example, Southerners believe that “any endeavors to agree upon renewing the truce according to the Houthi conditions and which does not consider South Yemen’s demands and aspirations represented in the two -state solution won’t achieve pacification or pave the way for a sustainable peace.” They stressed the need to represent South Yemen by an independent delegation in the comprehensive political operation negotiations and enable Southerners to run the affairs of their governorates through negotiations till reaching a comprehensive peace agreement.

Back to the decision to establish “Nation Shield Forces” forces, voices in North Yemen have also emerged that expressed their rejection of it for reasons that may differ from the Southern ones. They have concerns that these forces pave the way to add another Northern armed rival on the ground. For example, the Islah party fears the issuance of other decisions regarding the Taiz governorate which is mostly controlled by it. This is considering issuing previous decisions related to Al-Jawf that attempted to deduct from the Islah party’s political and military balances. The stormy media attack against Al-Alimi by the Northern parties emerged due to their understanding about the dimensions of forming these forces on their areas of influence or the Northern power balances considering the parity with the south currently.

As a military dimension, the decision may be seen as playing into the hands of local military forces on the ground, including the Southern forces. especially that most “Nation Shield Forces” commanders hail from South Yemen areas, even though there are few Northern elements. However, at a time when PLC is expected to unite the efforts of all the anti-Houthi military forces, the formation of “Nation Shield Forces” after eight years of conflict adds a new factor of division that would curb the military harmonization process. Accordingly, this will lead to new tours of tension and conflict. This tension may not be limited to the Houthis and the “legitimacy government” in case of resorting to the military solution. It may extend into the “legitimacy” parties themselves. Different military forces previously tested these scenes in the governorates of Aden, Shabwa and Abyan; Southern critics believe that the latest signs on that have recently emerged in the decisions taken by the Interior Minister Ibrahim Haidan to appoint new Chief of Staff for the “Special Forces” in the Abyan Axis. This has been opposed by the Southern armed forces who warned that they will not hesitate to use iron grip against all who want to harm the security and stability of the governorate. 

Accordingly, the dimensions of forming the new military forces will not support the battle against the Houthis but it would be a factor that would irritate the influential military forces on the ground including the Southern forces. This is considering the lack of a clear Saudi strategic vision towards South Yemen. Thus, Southerners can deal with the scene from two perspectives: The first is the attempt to re-arrange the Southern military power balances towards each other and deal with them in a way that serves the interests of their joint strategic national goals. This may include taking pledges and commitments from the “Nation Shield Forces” not to engage in a fight against them under any circumstances. The second is declaring a more decisive stance towards these decisions and the possible subsequent ones, especially considering the lack of harmony and consensus among PLC members. It seems that STC’s statements about the need for the independence of the negotiating Southern delegation in any future peace negotiation were a prelude to this. 

Farida Ahmed 

Executive Director of South24 Center for News and Studies

Researcher and journalist in political affairs

Nation Shield ForcesSaudi ArabiaRashad Al-AlimiSTCSouthern ForcesSouth YemenPLC