The Saudi-UAE led military coalition fighting the Houthis in Yemen, backed by the United States, has been caught red-handed doing secret deals with AQAP (Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) terrorists, an Associated Press (AP) investigation has revealed.
The deals included paying off Al Qaeda fighters to leave several cities and towns without a fight, letting them keep their weapons, other equipment, and estimated $100 million cash they had looted from the Yemeni cities they plundered. Many Al Qaeda fighters were also recruited later to join the coalition forces or one of the many coalition-backed militias to fight the Houthis.
This revelation effectively means that the Saudi-led military coalition and its main backer, the United States, along with the United Kingdom and France, are working hand in glove with Al Qaeda, even though when they launched their military intervention in Yemen in 2015, one of their stated goals was to defeat the Al Qaeda in Yemen.
One such instance reported by AP took place in early 2016 during which thousands of Al Qaeda fighters vacated the city of Mukulla with their weapons and looted cash, right under the nose of coalition fighter jets and US drones. Two days later, coalition forces claimed victory saying hundreds of terrorists were killed as part of the capture of the city.
Another similar deal was reached in the province of Abayan, when AQAP left six of its towns, including the capital Zinjibar. Once again, there were no airstrikes or bombings, and the terrorists were allowed to keep their weapons, according to five tribal mediators involved in the deal. 250 of the Al Qaeda militants were allowed to join a UAE-backed Yemeni force in the area.
Sources told AP that the United States was well aware of these secret deals in advance since many of the deals included the retreating fighters not being targeted by US drone strikes.
The Houthis, the rebel group which took over much of northern Yemen, including the capital Sanaa in 2015, are of the Zaidi sect of Shia Islam, because of which they have been perceived as being close to Iran. The US-Saudi military intervention in Yemen stemmed from the fact that the Houthis in 2015 overthrew the their ally, Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, leading to fears of rise in Iran’s influence in the region.
The US, UK and other western countries have been supporting the Saudi-led coalition since military operations began. They have sold billions of dollars worth of weapons to the Saudis, Emiratis and other partners in the coalition.
US advisers have been providing intelligence to the coalition to be used for attacking potential targets on the ground. American planes are also helping the coalition fighter jets with air-to-air refuelling. American drones are providing crucial air support by assassinating many of the coalition’s enemies, in the process also massacring a disproportionately large number of civilians.
Just last year, the US State Department had approved the sale of $1.3 billion worth of air-to-ground weapons to Saudi Arabia, including approximately 22,000 bombs. UK’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia increased by 11000% in the first three months of the coalition’s military operations in Yemen. British arms worth 3.8 billion pounds have been sold to Saudi Arabia since the war began.
The country is suffering from an acute humanitarian crisis, one which the UN termed as the world’s worst. Around 22 million people in Yemen are in dire need of food, medicine and other humanitarian aid. At least 11 million of are being children.