Soldiers from the Shabwa Defense Forces (activists)

Will the Southern Forces Move Towards Wadi Hadramout?


Tue, 23-08-2022 05:39 PM, Aden

Abdullah Al-Shadli (South24)

The latest incidents in the Southern governorate of Shabwa stir questions about how extent things will be escalated in the southern-eastern governorates, especially in the valley (Wadi) and the desert of Hadramout. These oil-rich areas are where Northern military brigades affiliated with the Islah Party are based. 

Given the role played by these brigades affiliated with the 1st Military District in supporting military and security forces accused of insurgency against the local authorities in Shabwa recently, observers who spoke to “South24” have different views about the possible expansion of this conflict towards Hadramout.

On Sunday, the Southern forces affiliated with STC accomplished its control over the international line of Al-Abr in Shabwa after days of sporadic battles across the line against military units affiliated with the Islah. The Southern forces also controlled important oil facilities in the north east of the governorate under the supervision of the local authorities’ leadership. 

By controlling these areas in Shabwa, the Southern forces became more close from Wadi Hadramout after some of their brigades deployed on the borders of Al-Abr district which includes Al- Wadeah crossing that connects Seiyun, the capital of Wadi Hadramout with the nearby governorates. 

The involvement of the 1st Military District

The Southern forces in Shabwa officially accused the 1st Military District of supporting the forces affiliated with the Islah Party in the governorate and to be involved in the war against its local authorities. 

Captain Jalal Abdulaziz, the Spokesman of Shabwa Defence Forces told “South24” days ago: “The investigations proved that a bomb drone was launched from Al-Khashaa Camp affiliated with the 1st Military District in Wadi Hadramout towards the International Ataq Airport”. 

According to the spokesperson, “the Southern Forces’ air defenses managed to shoot down the drone before reaching its target. In a meeting on Saturday, STC’s presidium called PLC to “end the military mobilization which is made by the Islah Party in Wadi Hadramout and Marib towards Shabwa”.

On that regard, political analyst Salah Al-Sakldi told “South24” that “the forces affiliated with the Islah Party receive support from the 1'st Military District in Seiyun and Marib. All of this confirms the truth that this is an armed party and has nothing to do with its claimed civilization". 

He added: “The Islah is panicked at the military and political levels following the defeats it incurred in Shabwa and its refusal to carry out presidential decisions. The party emerged as an insurgent entity. It used to flaunt legitimacy but today it has trampled it”.

The occurrence of a battle

Because of their continuous support of the forces affiliated with the Islah Party in Shabwa, analysts and experts expect that battles by the Southern forces affiliated with the PLC may include the 1st Military District across Hadramout’s valley and desert. Others consider this an unlikely scenario currently.

Military expert Waddah Al-Oubali told “South24” that “based upon the available information, It is likely to see possible battles between the Southern forces and the 1st Military District, especially that such battles are motivated by the sharp congestion between the two parties which reached its peak after the Shabwa incidents”.

He added: “As part of the hasty and the ill-examined reaction by some military and security leaders, everything is possible including military confrontations on the outskirts of Wadi Hadramout”. 

Regarding the need of the Southern forces affiliated with the PLC for an air cover from the Arab Coalition, Al-Oubali said: “I think there is a power balance between the two parties if we enter the preparations and the armament of the Giants in this equation against the arsenal of the 1st Military District's brigades”. 

Political activist Abu Bakr Baras believes that “the battle in Wadi Hadramout will be inevitable, especially as it is considered the last bastion of the Islah Party. 

He told “South24” that “the media campaign recently led by the Islah Party and its ongoing offends against the Arab Coalition are considered an indicator about the preparations by the forces affiliated with the party to engage in a battle against the Southern forces”.

Regarding the timing of the supposed battle, Baras said: “Battles always impose themselves and are not tied with a certain time. The moment of insurgency and the sense of danger is the decision making moment to end any possible threats”.

Activist Abdullah Bagbaa agrees with this view. He believes that “the 1st Military District decline to exit Wadi Hadramout as stipulated in the Riyadh Agreement is in itself one of the indicators which denotes that the 1st Military District prefers to be driven out by war not through peace”. 

However, Salah Al-Sakldi rules out the expansion of the battles towards Wadi Hadramout currently. He said: “There is a remarkable sort of pacifying military rush by the Southern forces towards the east, Wadi Hadramout and the desert”.

He added: ”There are dubious moves behind the scenes which aim to curb heading toward Hadramout and the strategic crossing of Al- Wadeah. Interior Minister and regional pressures are probably behind this”. He elaborated: “We can feel this clearly through the statements by the Southern forces, especially the Giants Brigades which talk about not intending to move beyond securing Shabwa”. 

He added: “Sooner or later, this abnormal situation which has remained in Hadramout and many Southern areas for years will change. Things should be adjusted and the balance has to return to its normal place. This is a strong conviction that dominates many people”. 

On Friday, the committee, charged with investigating the latest Shabwa’s Incidents, announced a security plan to defuse the crisis in the governorate in its first statement since established by the PLC. The Committee, led by the Yemeni Defense Minister, stressed the need to reach a cease-fire in the oil-rich governorate and to enforce the PLC’s decisions to appoint new military and security leadership in Shabwa.

The statement ordered “regrouping military and security units which left their camps and merged them into other suitable camps determined by the security committee in the governorate in order to make human and normal inventory and to return all their weapons”.

The security committee assigned the task of securing the international line (Ataq-Al Abr) to the new Ataq Axis Commander, Brigadier General Adel Ali Al-Masabi. Moreover, the committee ratified maintaining the tasks of the military units around the oil fields"

The moving decision

Whether it is possible to issue a decision to move the 1st Military District simultaneously with the battles, Al-Sakldi believes that "many things will change in the incoming days by decisions or decisions on the ground". He pointed out to the latest visit by PLC Chairman Rashad Al-Alimi to the Abu Dhabi and Riyadh.

Al-Sakldi said: "These visits can produce fatal decisions on different spheres, including the military one". 

He indicated that “the 1st Military District will certainly be subjected to restructure even no decision has been made to move it towards Marib due to the sensitivity of the truce with the Houthis".

He added: "This will happen because of the escalation of voices who call for correcting the troubled situation since the beginning of this war. I mean the continuous presence of those huge forces to suppress people and drain their wealth while the Houthis make what they want in North".

On the other hand, Journalist Khalid Al-Khathiri criticized such move adding that “just thinking in moving the 1st Military District is absurdity".

He said that “this does not serve the interests of the state. These forces are an active partner to the Arab Coalition and they are ready to participate in the fiercest wars against the groups that have hostility towards the Yemeni government and its legitimacy".

The journalist accused some media outlets of "attempting to distort the image of the 1st Military District". He added: "the 1st Military District is subjected to the Interior and Defense ministries and affiliated with the legitimate government". Although he criticized any decision to move it, Al-Khathiri believes that the 1st Military District will accept such a decision in case of receiving direct instructions to do this".


As for the possible scenarios for the Wadi Hadramout battle, Al-Sakldi said: "The scenarios are completely open but they won't have much difference from the plan of the Arab Coalition or the aspirations of the active forces on the ground, especially in South".

Baras does not rule out an alliance between the 1st Military District and the Houthis in light of previous incidents "in which Al-Islah handed over many districts in Marib and Shabwa to the Houthis".

Bagbaa believes that this is likely to happen, especially after "the Houthis courted senior Islahi officials to ally with them".

Journalist Osama Jeridan believes that such a battle "will disclose the alliances within the Military District affiliated with the Islah which consists of Northern elements". He claimed that "the 1st Military District is allied with AQAP and the Houthis. Time will reveal all these alliances".

A political solution 

Al-Oubali believes that there is a possibility to make Wadi Hadramout avoid the latest Shabwa incidents as well as pressuring Al-Islah Party and its forces politically".

Al-Oubali said: "There are no favorite odds in the war, especially in such cases of confrontations between parties affiliated with the PLC". He added that "it is possible to pose pressures and take the political necessary arrangements. Everyone has to learn from what happened in Shabwa".

The expert believes that the military escalation opens the doors for harsh possibilities such as "involving in long-term confrontations in which unfavorable alliances (internally or regionally) will be available and have negative impact on the whole scene. This puts us in front of a new scene which is part of Scenes of overlapping and financier conflict".

Al-Oubali noted that "there are indicators which makes the occurrence of such a scenario possible if taking into consideration the harsh geographical nature of the plateau and the valley of Hadramout which may allow fortification in it for as long as possible ".

The scene is not clear so far regarding Wadi Hadramout and the desert inspite of the clear intention for the political forces in South Yemen to expel the 1st Military District from this wide-scale geography.

Actually, the Riyadh Agreement in 2019 between STC and the Yemeni Government stipulates on moving the military forces, including the 1st Military Region, to the fighting fronts against the Houthis. With the current existing of PLC in which STC participates, the Southerners hope that achieving this will be closer than ever".

Abdullah Al-Shadli

Journalist and editor at South24 Center for News and Studies

South YemenMilitary DistrictsHouthisPLCSTCRiyadh AgreementShabwaAbyanWadi HadramoutIslah