Arab Coalition’s priority in Yemen is to protect civilians: Asiri

A tank of the Yemeni forces loyal to the Saudi-backed exiled president is pictured during clashes with Shiite Huthi rebels oustide the country's third-city of Taez on April 6, 2017 (File Photo: AFP)

The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen considered sending in thousands of troops, but decided against this approach to minimize casualties, coalition spokesman General Ahmed Asiri told Al Arabiya News’ general manager Turki Aldakhil in a special interview aired on Sunday.

“The coalition’s course of action consisted of two options: either a conventional air campaign, followed by a comprehensive ground operation on all Yemeni territory, with forces entering Yemen and occupying all areas. But this approach would have proven costly,” Asiri explained.

“It did not happen for several reasons: First, there would have been be a large deployment of ground forces which would have resulted in a large number of civilian and military casualties. One of the objectives of the coalition is to rid Yemeni civilians of the Houthi rebel presence in their daily lives.”

He added: “There are around 100,000 Saudi forces stationed on the border that could have occupied Yemen in a few days, but we wanted to support legitimacy in Yemen with the least possible losses on both sides. We are like a technical team in a hostage situation.”

Asiri said that the coalition forces preferred to go with a more patient and drawn-out approach because “it puts the militia under pressure.”

Asiri

Asiri

He said that now, two years into the war, “the Houthis are deprived of accessing material supplies and weaponry. They have lost a large number of their trained fighters and leaders. Many observers believe that time is on the side of the Arab coalition forces”.

Length of the war

Asked why the war has lasted for two years, Asiri said: “Talk of a military victory shows a lack of understanding of the reality of the operation in Yemen. There are coalition forces with a mission to support the legitimate government, so the quest for a victory for them is nonexistent.”

“We are looking to accomplish three goals,” he said, “First, to preserve the Yemeni state, secondly, to reduce the danger to Yemeni citizens, and thirdly to protect Saudi Arabia’s borders. We have been able to accomplish a significant part of our objectives.”

Asiri emphasized that the legitimate government is now currently operating in Aden, where “life is back to normal.” He said the government now controlled about 85 percent of Yemeni territory.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 14:00 - GMT 11:00
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