Military Capabilities

UAE-backed counter-terrorism operations unlikely to fully succeed in rooting out Sunni jihadists from southern Yemen

16 March 2018

Key Points

  • This was the third large counter-terrorism operation launched by UAE-backed local forces since January 2018 across southern Yemen. According to UAE officials, the three operations have almost completely driven out AQAP from the area and degraded its operational capabilities.
  • Although the stated aim of these operations was to remove AQAP, their geographical focus shows that, in reality, the UAE effort was seeking the more limited and immediate objective of creating a “jihadist-free” zone around key strategic and energy assets in an area where the influence of southern pro-independence forces is growing.
  • UAE attempts to consolidate control of southern Yemen are likely to cause the Islamic State and AQAP to devote more resources to mounting asymmetric attacks against UAE-backed local forces.


On 11 March, United Arab Emirates (UAE)-backed Security Belt Forces announced the successful completion of Operation Sweeping Torrent, aimed at driving out Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) from Yemen’s Abyan province.

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