Last week, as many of our readers know, two SAS operators were wounded in an IED blast in Yemen. The covert operation was a combined UK/US operation where the SAS along with a U.S. Special Forces A-Team were scouting out potential drop zones in the country.
But what the drop zones were for highlights just how bad the humanitarian crisis has gotten in Yemen. The combined Green Beret/SAS unit was scouting drop zones for the dropping of relief supplies for the starving people.
The combined team flew into Aden from Djibouti aboard a UAE-supplied Chinook helicopter and once on the ground met with UAE commanders before undertaking their mission. To lower the team’s footprint and their presence on the ground, the Special Operations troops dressed in Arabic clothing and drove in unmarked pickup trucks.
The eastern part of Yemen is largely under the control of the Houthi rebels including the port of Hudaydah. Because of this, Saudi Arabia, a US ally in the region has prevented humanitarian vessels from landing supplies there.
The Houthis began as a moderate theological movement that preached tolerance and held a broad-minded view of all the Yemeni peoples. That changed in the mid-1990s when they began publishing the readings of Hassan Nasrallah, the Lebanese head of Hezbollah, the Iranian-funded radicalized hater of all things American and Israeli.
The men were operating in the vicinity of the town of Marib, about 500 miles north of Aden when one of the pickup trucks they were traveling in was caught in an IED blast, which was triggered when the vehicle in front drove over it.
About a month ago, five engineers from various countries were killed and another Briton injured in an IED attack around Marib. The explosives were both planted by Houthi rebels.
The men were from the 21st SAS, not the famed 22nd SAS from Hereford, which is a Territorial unit. Both men suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries. They were flown by medevac helicopters, first to the U.S. base in Djibouti and then back to the UK via Cypress. Both are expected to recover.
The British Foreign Office arranged a small $3 million dollar aid package that was to stabilize a ceasefire in the port city of Hodeida. The hope was to stabilize and pacify Hodeida and then further outlying areas would follow suit.
This operation is a tricky situation where the Special Operations forces are running a strictly humanitarian assistance mission, and while they’re plotting drop zones for food and medical supplies, the fact they are even there runs contrary to the objectives of both the Sunni government and the Saudis who support them.
The civil war that began in 2015 between the government of Yemen and the Houthi rebels is, in essence, a war of proxies and the civilian populace which is caught in the middle. On one side is the Yemeni government, heavily influenced and supported by the Saudis. The Yemenis also have the support of Egypt, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, and Sudan have also contributed support to the Saudi coalition.
On the other side, the Houthi rebels are financed and supported by Iran. The Iranian presence is the reason for the Saudi intervention. Two years ago, the Houthis fired missiles at US Navy warships. The US military retaliated by striking three coastal missile batteries with cruise missiles.
As usual, the U.N. has said that Iranian support is “alleged”, despite having the U.S. display a surface-to-air missile that was seized by the Saudi-led coalition en route to Yemen. The missile had Farsi writing and US spokesmen told the media that there was a logo from an Iranian arms maker in the warhead.
The Iranians are barred from selling or transferring any weapons without the express approval of the UN Security Council. The United States, which has lent logistical and intelligence support to the Saudis are vowing to pull their support over the plight of the civilian populace and the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi.
The humanitarian crisis has reached epic proportions. Over 10,000 civilians have been killed in the fighting which has taken on a “no-quarter-given” type of conflict. Estimates put the number of children who have starved to death at 84,000 with upwards of 22,000,000 people who need assistance. A total of 8.4 million people are on the verge of famine.
The UK is designated by the UN as a “pen-holder” to Yemen – meaning it is in charge of drafting and tabling Security Council resolutions – because of its historical links with the country. Because of their aid package, both the Houthi rebels and the Yemeni forces have agreed to pull out from the port city of Hodeida which it is hoped that now aid in terms of food and medicine can now reach one of the poorest countries on the planet.
The UN is going to hold another multinational meeting in Geneva on February 26 to determine how the next batch of aid is to be distributed. However, the Houthis, who are now losing the war, are targeting and harassing aid workers. The next card to play is the taking of aid workers as hostages, to use as a bargaining chip in future negotiations.
Meanwhile British and American Special Operators continue to put their lives on the line in a humanitarian mission.
Photo: UK Ministry of Defense