Pro-UAE forces have recently taken control of Shabwa governorate, bringing them into conflict with other pro-govt groups.
The head of Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council (PLC) Rashad al-Alimi has ordered United Arab Emirates-backed separatists to stop military operations in the country’s south.
The notice issued to the head of the Southern Transitional Council, and fellow council member, Aidarous al-Zubaidi, on Monday, and seen by Reuters, is an attempt by al-Alimi to step in and stop an STC campaign against rival factions within the government umbrella, including the Islah Party.
Al-Alimi said that all military operations should be stopped until the implementation of a troop redeployment in Yemen’s south, stipulated in a power-sharing agreement from 2019, could be fully implemented.
The divisions within the council expose its precarious nature, with members often ideologically opposed, and only united by opposition to the Iran-aligned Houthis, and support from the Saudi-led military coalition.
The STC has recently made gains against Islah in the resource-rich southern Shabwa governorate, and said on Tuesday that it had launched an “anti-terror” operation in Shabwa’s neighbouring governorate of Abyan.
The operation would “cleanse [Abyan] of terrorist organisations”, including al-Qaeda, while also securing Yemen’s temporary capital of Aden and other southern governorates.
Al-Qaeda has conducted several attacks across Yemen’s south this year, particularly targeting soldiers.
The STC has been gradually gaining the upper hand in Shabwa, where Islah had previously been dominant.
After an incursion from the Houthis into the governorate in late 2020, the STC and other pro-UAE factions blamed Islah for allowing the Houthi advance, and they were forced to wait as the UAE-backed Giants Brigade pushed back the Houthis.
The removal of an Islah-aligned governor, Muhammed Saleh Bin Adio, in December, also cemented the ascendancy of pro-UAE forces.
The STC and government forces have also fought in southern Yemen before, most notably in 2018 and 2019.
The Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 after the Houthis deposed the government from the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and pushed millions into hunger.
In April, the PLC formed under Saudi auspices assumed the powers of former President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi as Saudi Arabia sought to strengthen the anti-Houthi alliance amid intense international pressure to end the war.
Instability in the south complicates United Nations efforts for a permanent ceasefire to pave the way for political negotiations to end the war. A UN-mediated truce between the coalition and the Houthis has largely held since April.