Egypt and Qatar have deployed about 1,800 ground troops to Yemen this week, with other members of the 10-country coalition formed by Saudi Arabia in March to combat the Iran-linked Houthi rebels in Yemen expected to follow suit.
“Nine coalition members are expected to have forces fighting on the ground alongside Saudi troops before the end of the week,” reports International Business Times (IBT), citing Yemen local news.
Until recently, Egypt and Qatar, like most of the Saudi-led coalition members, had limited their involvement against the Shiite Houthis in Yemen to airstrikes.
“Egypt, which has one of the strongest armies in the Arab world, sent 800 troops armed with tanks and military transport vehicles into the war-torn country Tuesday night. The day before, Qatar sent 1,000 troops into Yemen,” reports IBT. “Morocco, Sudan, Jordan and Kuwait are expected to follow suit and join the thousands of troops already on the ground from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Some reports claim that many of the countries listed had already sent troops into Yemen as of Wednesday.”
“We have sent these forces as part of Egypt’s prominent role in this alliance. … The alliance fights for the sake of our brotherly Arab states, and the death of any Egyptian soldier would be an honor and considered martyrdom for the sake of innocent people,” Reuters learned form a senior Egyptian military source.
The coalition’s new expanded involvement in the conflict came after the Houthis reportedly launched a Russian-made missile on Friday into a base controlled by the Saudi-led alliance, killing at least 45 Emirati troops, five Bahrainis, and 10 Saudis, notes IBT.
It was “the largest loss of life” for the UAE military since 1971, “making the day the deadliest one so far for the coalition,” a report from The Soufan Group pointed out.
“There is no geopolitical strategy or even a battle plan that can survive long on the ground in Yemen,” added The Soufan Group. “Success in one part of the rugged country yields to losses in another.”
Ground troops were reportedly deployed to Marib, Yemen’s oil-rich province where Sunnis and al-Qaeda jihadist have also been fighting the Houthis.
“The complex web of allegiances on the ground in Yemen’s tribal-dominated areas will likely be an obstacle for the coalition’s new ground war strategy,” according to IBT.
Saudi Arabia convened a coalition and declared war against the Iran-backed Houthis in late March after the Shiite rebels conquered the Yemeni capital Sanaa, forcing U.S. troops and internationally recognized Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to eventually leave the country.
IBT states, “In addition to the nine countries involved in ground operations, Somalia is also a member of the coalition.”
The Obama administration is providing logistical and intelligence support to the Saudi-led coalition.
According to the United Nations, more than 4,500 people have been killed since March, nearly half of them civilians, including hundreds of children.