CAIRO (AP) — Sudan has recently drawn down its forces taking part in a Saudi-led coalition at war with Iran-aligned rebels in Yemen, two senior Sudanese officials said Wednesday.
The UAE’s military, meanwhile, said it pulled its troops from the southern port city of Aden and handed over the interim capital to Saudi and Yemeni forces.
The Sudanese officials declined to disclose how many troops have left Yemen, but said “several thousand troops,” mainly from the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, returned home over the past two months.
The officials said Sudan isn’t quitting the Saudi-led coalition. The coalition was formed in 2015 to stem the advance of the rebels known as Houthis after they took over Yemen’s capital and the northern provinces in 2014, pushing out the internationally recognized government.
The officials said Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, head of the RSF, agreed with Saudi Arabia that he would not replace returned forces as fighting on the ground has dwindled in recent months. They said a “few thousand troops” remain for training Yemeni government forces.
In past years Dagalo, who is also member of Sudan’s joint military-civilian Sovereign Council that will govern Sudan for just over a three-year transition period, mobilized thousands of RSF troops to fight in Yemen on behalf of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the backbone of the coalition.
The RSF grew out of the notorious Janjaweed militias used by former autocratic President Omar al-Bashir in the Darfur conflict in the early 2000s.
The officials said the Sudanese troops reached over 40,000 at the peak of Yemen’s war in 2016-2017.
Yemeni military officials said Sudanese troops had centered mainly in Yemen’s border areas with Saudi Arabia to repel any attacks by Houthis on the Kingdom.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to brief the media.
A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition did not answer calls seeking comment.
The UAE’s military said Wednesday it pulled its troops from the southern port city of Aden and handed over the interim capital to “Saudi and Yemeni forces.”
In a statement carried by state-run WAM news agency, the Emirati military said the forces had armed and trained Yemeni forces to a degree that they could function independently.
The UAE dominates Yemen’s south through the militias it arms and finances. But in July, the UAE said it pulled several thousand troops out of Yemen, describing the move as a “strategic redeployment.” Qatar and Morocco also pulled forces from Yemen in recent years amid a rift with Saudi Arabia.
In August, UAE-backed separatists known as the Southern Transitional Council overran Aden and other southern cities, driving out forces loyal to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in bloody fighting. That infighting has raised fears of a further weakening of the anti-Houthi bloc and undermining chances for finding a negotiated solution to the civil war.
Last week, Yemeni officials said Hadi’s government and the southern separatists reached an initial agreement to end the fighting and allow Hadi’s return to Aden. Saudi Arabia also increased its military presence in southern Yemen, airlifting in additional troops, armored vehicles, tanks and other military equipment.
The Saudi-led coalition has been at war in Yemen since 2015 to support the country’s internationally backed government.
The war, sparked by the Houthis’ takeover of the capital in 2014, has claimed tens of thousands of lives, thrust millions to the brink of famine and spawned the world’s most devastating humanitarian crisis. Now it has ground into a long stalemate.
Associated Press writer Ahmed al-Haj contributed from Sanaa, Yemen.