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Saudi Coalition Claims Progress in Taking Yemeni City of Taez

December 4, 2015 (Photo Credit: Ahman al-Basha/AFP via Getty Images)

 

DUBAI — In the battle for the strategic Yemeni city of Taez, the Saudi-led coalition has gained nearly complete control, according to coalition commanders and analysts.

Operations began to capture the city on Nov. 15 with United Arab Emirates forces and Saudi-Emirati trained Yemeni Popular Resistance Committee forces advancing.

According to Mahmood Sharief Mahmood, head of research and constancy, and adviser at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, obtaining control of the city is key to the Arab coalition forces' campaign in Yemen.

"Taez is the closest southern gate to Sanaa, it is approximately 200 kilometers away from Sanaa. Advanced armored vehicles can reach it in less than three hours," he said.

Taez will serve as the military base for the coalition in which the UAE plays a primary role in the advance to the north, Mahmood added.

"Taez is an important gateway to control the entire coastal area of Yemen and all the maritime facilities and ports located within it, such as the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea and Bab Al Mandab," he said

Furthermore, control of the coastal corridor will prevent the supply of ammunition to the Houthis from the coastal facilities.

"Control of the coastal corridor reignites the aspiration for the Djibouti -Taez Transcontinental Bridge that will link Asia with Africa. This will have a strong geo-economic impact on international maritime [operations] which has strong political, economic, military and security implications," Mahmood said.

Since October, the Arab coalition has been boosted by the arrival of Sudanese forces.

According to a commander of the pro-government forces, more than 1,350 Sudanese soldiers have arrived in Yemen since October. Some were deployed in the strategic Al Anad airbase adjacent Lahj province, the source said.

Sudanese Defense Minister Lt. Gen. Awad Bin Awf had earlier stated that the Sudan is ready to commit up to 6,000 troops to the operations in Yemen. A first group who arrived in mid-October consisted of a commando battalion, according to military sources in Khartoum.

"The forces that initially arrived in Yemen were tasked with securing and policing Aden, a number of them [moved] from the National Intelligence Service's commando brigades," a Sudanese military source told Defense News.

Battle Plan To Control Taez

In the build-up to gain full control, the UAE sent more Emirati military vehicles manned by pro-government fighters

"We are not far from the truth if we state that 75 percent of the province of Taez is under the control of the coalition forces," Mahmood said.

Mahmood added that the UAE has deployed soldiers accompanied by advanced armored vehicles via the strategic southern Nejid supply route.

"It is not an over statement to say that the UAE land forces are the most effective military operators in the south of Yemen. However, minefields laid down by the pro-Huthi [forces] are causing serious damage to the efforts of the coalition," he said

The battle to control the western part of the city is underway.

"It seems that the operation to control the western part of the Taez has begun. It aims to cut off the Houthi supply and logistics line and to lift the siege. It is believed that the operation will move to the eastern front of the province of Taez. The liberation of Taez will be complete If the coalition won those two fronts," Mahmood said.

Yemeni government troops and their supporters have reportedly recaptured the strategic town of Jaar in southern Abyan province from al-Qaida. 

Jaar is considered a key link between Aden, where the internationally recognized government has its temporary headquarters, and Al Mukalla, the al-Qaida-held capital of southeastern Hadramout province, according to coalition military sources.

Also, the first Sudanese soldier was killed in fighting to liberate Al Sharija area in Lahj province from al-Houthi control.

"In this battle, units of the Sudanese Army are participating [for the first time] with the members of the Popular Resistance with an air cover provided by the [Arab] coalition against al-Houthi militants and forces [loyal] to [former Yemen President Ali Abdullah] Saleh," press reports quoted Qaid Nasr, a spokesperson for the Popular Resistance, as saying.

Al Sharija's recapture is important for the military advance towards Taez, and the attempts to wrest control of the city from al-Houthi militants, reports said.

Political Windfall From Taez Operation 

According to Mahmood, a victory in Taez will strengthen the negotiating position of the Saudi-led Arab coalition in Dec. 7 Geneva talks.

"The preliminary talks are currently being held in the Sultanate of Oman under the disguise of the UN Representative to Yemen. It appears that the Ansar Allah party will join the preliminary talks," he said.

Email: amustafa@defensenews.com

Twitter: @awadz

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