Close to 3000 Saudi-backed entered Yemen this week as Riyadh began a full-blown ground war in the embattled country.
Months of airstrikes conducted by Saudi Arabia, and supported by US targeting intelligence, has halted the Houthi assault on Yemen’s southern province of Aden. Now, pro-government, Qatari and Saudi forces are pushing to extend territorial control northwards to secure key strategic points as the civil war rages on.
The US now ponders its next move in Yemen also as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) becomes exposed to unmanned aerial vehicle strikes as the Houthi rebels are pushed out of the south.
Riyadh has shown it may be willing to incur increased casualties in its campaign in Yemen, but it’s motivations for the recent offensive remain unclear. It could be looking to crush the rebel forces or bring them to negotiation. The next few weeks will play this out.
Meanwhile in Afghanistan, Taliban leader Mullah Omar is reported once again to have been killed along with equally ambiguous rumours that Haqqani Network leader Jalaluddin Haqqani is also dead.
Their deaths would partially explain why peace negotiations between Kabul and the Taliban have stalled this year. As the Taliban internally fight over a successor, any chance of a negotiated settlement in the third quarter is low. Kabul is expected to maintain military pressure on the group.
In Syria, a collapse of the US-backed “New Syrian Force” following an assault on its position by al Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra marks a serious embarrassment for President Barack Obama’s Syria intervention strategy. The force, comprising only 60 men, was supposed to be supported by US airpower and is now either killed, captured or otherwise combat ineffective.
This puts the entire US rebel support programme in jeopardy. And since Turkey has spent the last two weeks bombing Kurdish position in Syria and Iraq rather than focusing on degrading ISIS – despite coming to an agreement with the US-led coalition – it now makes it nearly impossible for moderate Syrian rebels and Kurdish forces to trust Washington’s strategy in the country.