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UAE slashes military presence in Yemen over bubbling Gulf tensions

An Emirati soldier watches a ship crossing the Bab al-Mandab strait, off Yemen's coast [Getty]

Date of publication: 28 June, 2019

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The UAE has been withdrawing some of its forces from Yemen in order to repel security threats closer to home, according to a new report.
The United Arab Emirates is to scale back its military efforts in the war in Yemen to focus on security threats posed by US-Iran tensions which have bubbled over in close proximity to the wealthy Gulf nation, according to a report by Reuters.

The UAE, a prime ally in the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen, will withdraw some troops from the port of Aden and Yemen’s west coast, having established teams of local fighters who will continue battling Houthi-aligned forces on the ground, according to diplomatic sources.

The diplomats revealed that the Emirati leadership now requires its troops and equipment close to hand in case US-Iran tensions escalate further.

A series of attacks on tankers in and around the Emirates, as well as Tehran shooting down a American drone last Thursday, culminated in the US almost launching airstrikes against Iran.

“It is true that there have been some troop movements ... but it is not a redeployment from Yemen,” a senior Emirati official told Reuters.

They added that the UAE remains fully committed to the Saudi-led coalition and “will not leave a vacuum” in Yemen.

No details on the movements of number of troops being withdrawn were given in the report, however a Western diplomat said “a lot” of Emirati forces were pulled from Yemen over the past three weeks.

However, an Emirati official claimed that the withdrawal was a “natural progression” as the coalition attempts to implement a ceasefire in the port city of Hodeida, where fighting has raged for many months.

The Houthis, who have ties with Iran, have recently stepped up drone attacks against neighbouring Saudi Arabia, attacking a civilian airport in the south on Sunday.

Following recent attacks, Saudi state media have reported an intensification of coalition air raids on rebel positions in the northern Yemeni province of Hajjah and the Houthi-held capital Sanaa. 

The coalition intervened in support of the Yemeni government in 2015 when President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi fled into Saudi exile as the rebels closed in on his last remaining territory in and around second city Aden.

Since then, the conflict has killed tens of thousands of people, many of them civilians, relief agencies say.

It has triggered what the UN describes as the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with more than 24 million Yemenis - more than two-thirds of the population - in need of aid.

On Thursday the Saudi campaign in Yemen suffered a double blow as US lawmakers voted to block Trump's arms sales to Riyadh, just hours after Britain temporarily suspended similar sales.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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