ISLAMABAD — Analysts are unsure how Pakistan will contribute to the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen now that it appears to have committed itself. They say the Army and Air Force are preoccupied at home fighting the Pakistani Taliban (TTP), but its relationship with Riyadh left it with little choice but to fall into line.
There seems to be little domestic appetite for the Yemeni operation in Pakistan due to fears of blowback from a wider sectarian conflict.
A government delegation from Pakistan is due to visit Saudi Arabia in the next few days to discuss the matter further.
Pakistan's prime minister "knows on which side his bread is buttered. Given what Saudi Arabia has done for Pakistan over the years in ensuring it doesn't drown financially, I would say that Pakistan has very little choice about whether to provide military assistance to Saudi Arabia," he said.
Adding, "Saudi Arabia would never forgive Pakistan if it did not positively respond to the request for military assistance."
Nevertheless, Cloughley says, "it would be most unwise for Pakistan to send ground troops, because even if the Saudis paid [which one assumes they would], the lines of communication are extremely long, and logistics problems would be immense."
Furthermore, he said, "The Army is trained for warfare in the sub-continent and to send an expeditionary force overseas would be taking on too much."
"I think it will come down to a few aircraft. It will be good experience for the pilots and it won't cost anything."
A Pakistani warship is already en route to Aden to help evacuate the remaining Pakistani nationals there. Some were airlifted back to Pakistan via Saudi Arabia over the weekend, but others remain trapped by the fighting.
"Pakistan can help in two ways: One, provide special forces to help [Saudi Arabia] in specific and centralized operations, and second, it can provide Navy vessels to impose some type of security perimeters around the Gulf Aden," he said.
Adding, "The Pakistan Navy has already been part of CFT-150 for the past one decade or more and has a very good experience in dealing with the environment in and around the Gulf of Aden."
CTF-150 is a multinational maritime counterterror mission operating in the Arabian Sea and northwestern Indian Ocean region. Pakistan's Navy has also for some time been a member of CTF-151, combating Somali piracy in the same region.
"Deployment of regular Pakistani troops and Air Force assets and engaging them into combat with the rebels in Yemen would not be prudent since these rebels are directly supported by [Tehran]," he said.
He says the Saudis should conduct ground operations with its other allies.
He believes there is little reason for Pakistan's Air Force to become involved as "[Saudi] airpower has no match in the area and it will be able to dominate the airspace without any problems and provide ground troops much-needed air-to-ground support."
Usman Ansari is the Pakistan correspondent for Defense News.