By: Abdurrazaq Al-Jamal
Militants in the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization depend on guerrilla warfare tactics to narrow the huge gulf between themselves and their enemies in terms of material ability. In Yemen, the terrorist organization seized control of Abyan governorate and areas near Shabwa one year ago. They made use of all the military equipment they seized to take part in a conventional war against the Yemeni Army for all of the past year.
Despite the major disparity in power in favor of the Yemeni army , their weak knowledge of such new strategies as were adopted by Ansar Al-Sharia allowed the latter to achieve victories in all the confrontations they engaged in. They seized the opportunites to gain experience in fighting techniques. They continuously utilized what they had seized in their fight against the military forces.
However, the same source of weapons – the military forces – also provided them with training on how to use such heavy weapons. Ansar Al-Sharia made us of captive soldiers, who taught them how to use the weapons, effectively leaving the militants with a full-fledged team with the knowledge and understanding of how to use such heavy weapons.
No matter how large the amount of weapons Ansar Al-Sharia seized, they are due to run out at any moment. What they have, when it comes down to it, are but few when placed before the military equipment the army has. Ansar Al-Sharia’s weapons are weak, as they do not possess the warplanes of different nationalities, such as those belonging to the Americans and Saudis .
In contrast to the Minister of Defense’s ability to request help from the Saudis two weeks into the battle against the militants, Ansar Al-Sharia will be unable to request support – and will find no one to support them.
Ansar Al-Sharia does not have a fixed number of fighters, but can be said to have around 3,000 fighters who are up against more than 30,000 soldiers, with support from tribesmen who have devoted themselves to supporting the army. In the last battle, more than ten armored brigades participated and were distributed among different fronts. The brigade that surrounded the province included the:
– 31st Brigade: Commander Salem Qatan, commander of southern military area.
– 119th Infantry Brigade: General Rajab, Al-Koud, Zunjubar.
– 115th Mica Brigade: Major General Ali Haidra Al-Hanashi, Zunjubar
– 201st Mica Brigade: Major Mahmoud Al-Sabeehi
– 25th Mica Brigade: General Mohammed Abdullah Al-Saomali, Zunjubar>
– 39th Armored Brigade: General Mansour Al-Amrani, Zunjubar.
– 35th Armored Brigade: General Mohammed Abdullah Haidar, Zunjubar Axis
– 111th Armored Brigades: General Abdulqawi Al-Masmary, Louder.
– 135th Armored Brigade: General Yahiya Mohmmed, Al-Haroor location.
– A Republican Guard battalion: Colonel Abdullah Ali Al-Ma’araji, Louder
– A coastal defense battalion: Colonel Ahmed Abdullah, Shaqra, Zunjubar and Aden
– Navy Base: General Radman Ghanem Ahmed, Abyan and Aden beaches
All these brigades and battalions depended on aerial support, even though Yemen’s Air Force is known for weakness, to the extent that the Yemeni government did not depend on it in any of its wars. Hence, American warplanes provided the alternative, alongside rockets coming in from warships residing in near seas. Despite all that, the military units and other forces remained helpless, unable to move forward for over a month.
Ansar Al-Sharia, on the other hand, decided to withdraw because the government’s insistence on entering areas controlled by them would only allow them to do whatever they wanted. This is why the militant group said in a press release that they withdrew to prevent bloodshed.
Though withdrawal is considered to be of the most difficult military operations to undertake, they were able to withdraw with all their members and military equipment. In truth, the army did not enter into armed clashes to enter the areas they used to control – as media outlets used to report.
Generally speaking, Ansar Al-Sharia’s withdrawal was going to come sooner or later as a result of the economic shortages they have experienced. They ran out of money. They had spent more than YR 400 million according to Jalal Bal’eed, so-called emir of the Abyan Islamist emirate.
“We will make a huge difference if we return to our original fighting tactics, and our victory will transcend the controlling of or loss of land,” Bal’eed stated.
During my meetings with a number of Ansar Al-Sharia leaders, I was assured that the idea of controlling Abyan represented nothing more than a way of breaking the isolation the state, with U.S. Support, had imposed on them for over ten years.
The military campaign that removed Ansar Al-Sharia from Abyan province, and the security campaign that followed, will not be enough to prevent them from reaching their aims. What they have achieved, including Salem Qatan’s – Commander of the southern military area – proves this.