Yemen's military shake-up: Saleh cronies get the boot

Article Highlights

  • @AEI's @Criticalthreats shows the latest power structure of Yemen’s Armed Forces down to brigade level

    Tweet This

  • A Yemeni 'brigade' is much smaller than the U.S. equivalent and is estimated to include about 1,500 troops

    Tweet This

  • Without audits in Yemen's military, brigade commanders who distributed salaries to their soldiers, often exaggerated brigade sizes

    Tweet This

American counterterrorism strategy in Yemen relies on the local military to contain Ansar al Sharia, an insurgent wing of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). But Yemen is losing ground to Ansar al Sharia, which has expanded its foothold in southern Yemen. Newly-elected President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi must unify the fractured armed forces under his command; he has begun to do so by dismissing select commanders loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The extent of military defections over the period of protest can be seen in the Critical Threats Project’s Yemen Order of Battle (ORBAT). Hadi’s success or failure in restructuring the Yemeni military will have dangerous implications for the country’s ability to prevail against Ansar al Sharia and AQAP, thought to be al Qaeda’s most dangerous branch, and thereby America’s ability to effect its security interests in the region.

Yemen Order of Battle, April 2012

Download PDF
President Hadi released a list of military and political appointments on April 6, 2012 that strikes at Saleh’s patronage network. Some of the holdover military commanders had reportedly acted to handicap the fight against Ansar al Sharia and destabilize the Hadi government. The decrees removed Saleh’s half-brother and nephew from command positions and rearranged leadership in the Army and Navy. But Saleh figures remain in positions of power, most notably Saleh’s son Ahmed, head of the elite Republican Guard.

Restructuring the military is a pillar of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) deal of November 2011, which dictates that the government must “integrate the armed forces under unified, national and professional leadership.” The GCC announced its support for the appointments the day after their issue, saying that they complied with the terms of the GCC deal.

The backlash from Saleh’s men has already affected the military. Mohammed Saleh al Ahmar, dismissed commander of the Air Force, threatened to shoot down planes at Sana’a airport. Armed men loyal to Saleh shut down the Sana’a airport for a day. Rumors of other commanders refusing the changes have surfaced since the decrees. It is unclear how the military will weather this unrest; its strength has already been sapped by a year of defections and mutiny. It is crucial to U.S. interests that Hadi bring the armed forces to bear, because without a unified Yemeni military, the fight against AQAP will fail.

Read the daily Gulf of Aden Security Review from AEI's Critical Threats Project.

Read the latest Yemen Crisis Situation Update from AEI's Critical Threats Project.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Katherine
Zimmerman

What's new on AEI

Defeating ISIS: AEI experts weigh-in before the president’s address on Wednesday
image Degrading, defeating, and destroying the Islamic State
image Wealth Building Home Loan: Building wealth through homeownership and retirement savings
image The $3 iPhone
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 15
    MON
  • 16
    TUE
  • 17
    WED
  • 18
    THU
  • 19
    FRI
Tuesday, September 16, 2014 | 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
The Constitution as political theory

Please join us for the third-annual Walter Berns Constitution Day Lecture as James Ceasar, Harry F. Byrd Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia, explores some of the Constitution’s most significant contributions to political theory, focusing on themes that have been largely unexamined in current scholarship.

Event Registration is Closed
Wednesday, September 17, 2014 | 8:10 a.m. – Thursday, September 18, 2014 | 1:30 p.m.
Third international conference on housing risk: New risk measures and their applications

We invite you to join us for this year’s international conference on housing risk — cosponsored by the Collateral Risk Network and AEI International Center on Housing Risk — which will focus on new mortgage and collateral risk measures and their applications.

Event Registration is Closed
Thursday, September 18, 2014 | 2:15 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Speaker of the House John Boehner on resetting America’s economic foundation

Please join us as Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) delivers his five-point policy vision to reset America’s economy.

Event Registration is Closed
Friday, September 19, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Reforming Medicare: What does the public think?

Please join us as a panel of distinguished experts explore the implications of the report and the consumer role in shaping the future of Medicare.

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.