UAE reducing troops in Yemen in 'peace-first strategy'

  • 8 Jul 2019

"It's very much to do with moving from what I would call a military-first strategy to a peace-first strategy," according to one UAE official. Diplomats said Abu Dhabi preferred to have its forces on hand should US-Iran tensions escalate further.

In this November 7, 2015 file photo, a convoy of UAE military vehicles and personnel travels from Al Hamra Military Base to Zayed Military City in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, marking the return of the first batch of UAE Armed Forces military personnel from Yemen. ( AP )

The United Arab Emirates announced on Monday that it was reducing the number of troops in war-torn Yemen and shifting from a military strategy to a peace plan.

"We do have troop levels that are down for reasons that are strategic in [the Red Sea city of] Hudaida and reasons that are tactical" in other parts of the country, a senior UAE official told media.

"It's very much to do with moving from what I would call a military-first strategy to a peace-first strategy, and this is I think what we are doing."

The UAE already started pulling some troops from the southern port of Aden and the western coast in Yemen, two Western diplomats told Reuters news agency, areas where the Gulf state has built up and armed local forces who are leading the battle against the Houthi rebel group along the Red Sea coast.

The diplomats said Abu Dhabi preferred to have its forces and equipment on hand should tension between the United States and Iran escalate further after attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf and Tehran's downing of a US unmanned drone.

Worst humanitarian crisis

Yemen's conflict began with the 2014 takeover over of northern and central Yemen by the Houthi rebels, driving out the internationally-recognised government from the capital, Sanaa.

Saudi Arabia and UAE intervened in Yemen's civil war in 2015. 

Supporting the Aden government in Yemen, the kingdom and the UAE have been fighting the Houthis in a deadly war which has stripped the country of food, infrastructure and security.

In the campaign, Saudi-led air strikes have hit schools, hospitals and wedding parties and killed thousands of Yemeni civilians. 

The Houthis have used drones and missiles to attack Saudi Arabia and have targeted vessels in the Red Sea.

Civilians have borne the brunt of the conflict, which has created what the United Nations says is the world's worst humanitarian crisis. 

The war killed at least 91,600 people since 2015, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, or ACLED, which tracks the violence.