Gulf of Aden Security Review

A regularly updated review of both Yemen and the Horn of Africa covering topics related to security, governance, and militant activity.

Yemen: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman begins first state visit to U.S.; new UN Special Envoy assumes role; STC rejects Hadi government attempt to create joint military axis for Shabwah and Ma’rib; NGOs sue France for arms sales to Saudi Arabia and UAE; al Houthi forces shoot down Saudi-led coalition reconnaissance drone

Horn of Africa: Ethiopian AMISOM forces recapture Burdubo, Gedo region from al Shabaab militants; Somali President and Ministry of Defense announce new offensive against al Shabaab 

Yemen Security Brief

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman arrived in Washington D.C. on his first state visit to the U.S. on March 20. Bin Salman and President Donald Trump are expected to discuss the Yemen conflict at the White House on March 20. The U.S. Senate is set to vote on a proposed resolution that would withdraw support for U.S. military involvement in Yemen during Mohammed Bin Salman’s visit. Bin Salman also visited the UK this month, where he signed a provisional agreement to buy 48 Typhoon fighter jets on March 8. [1]

UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths officially assumed his role on March 19, replacing Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed. Griffiths pledged to engage with all Yemen stakeholders without exception. He also promised to adhere to the outcomes of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Initiative and all relevant UN Security Council resolutions. Griffiths met with officials from the internationally recognized Yemeni government, including President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, Prime Minister Ahmed bin Daghir, and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdul Malik al Mikhlafi on March 20. Head of the European Union (EU) Delegation to Yemen Antonia Calvo Puerta visited al Houthi-held Sana’a city on March 20 and called on all parties to engage with Griffiths in good faith.[2]

The Transitional Political Council of the South (STC) rejected a Hadi government attempt to create a new military axis in central Yemen on March 19. The Hadi government issued a decree on March 16 to integrate Bayhan, Usaylan, and Ain districts of Shabwah governorate into a new operational coalition that includes al Jubah and Harib districts of Ma’rib. The Hadi government affirmed on March 18 that the military decision would not affect the administrative or geographical makeup of Shabwah. The STC affirmed that Shabwah will remain intact and part of a unified southern Yemen. The STC is an Emirati-backed representative body that seeks increased southern autonomy. Shabwah was part of South Yemen, an independent state that existed from 1967-1990, while Ma’rib was part of an independent northern state.[3]

A French law firm reported on March 19 that France may be violating international laws for supplying Saudi Arabia and the UAE with arms. The laws in question include the UN's Arms Trade Treaty and the EU's Common Position on Arms Export. Amnesty International and French anti-torture group Acat commissioned the report. French NGOs will take the French government to court if the government fails to suspend arms export licenses. Norway banned arms exports to the UAE in January 2018. Germany suspended arms export licenses to countries involved in the Yemen conflict in January 2018.[4]

Al Houthi movement forces shot down a Saudi-led coalition reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in Midi district, Hajjah governorate, northwestern Yemen on March 19, according to local sources. Al Houthi movement forces last claimed to down a reconnaissance UAV in Asir province, southwestern Saudi Arabia on March 14.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Ethiopian African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces recaptured Burdubo, Gedo region, southwestern Somalia from al Shabaab militants on March 19. Al Shabaab claimed to repel the attack and retain control of parts of the town through its Shahada News Agency on March 19. Al Shabaab has targeted AMISOM forces in the Lower Shabelle region and Gedo region, southern Somalia in the past few weeks. Al Shabaab wounded and killed ten Ethiopian AMISOM troops with a roadside improvised explosive device (IED) in Luq, Gedo region on March 17. [6]

Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo and the Somali Ministry of Defense announced that the Somali National Army (SNA) is preparing a new offensive to retake al Shabaab-controlled territories on March 17. President Farmajo fired 18 SNA generals to reform Somalia’s military leadership on March 15. Farmajo plans to replace the generals with younger junior military officers. Farmajo also addressed complaints of insufficient salaries from soldiers. Farmajo called on security forces to increase security operations against al Shabaab in mid-February. U.S.-backed AMISOM and SNA forces recaptured multiple al Shabaab-controlled territories in southern Somalia in February 2018.[7]

[1] “HRH Crown Prince Arrives in the United States of America on State Visit,” Saudi Press Agency, March 20, 2018,
[2] “Martin Griffiths assumes the role of Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen,” Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, March 19, 2018,; “The Yemeni government welcomes the remarks of UN envoy Martin Griffiths,” Saba New, March 20, 2018,; and “Head of EU Delegation: war in Yemen must stop,” Saba New, March 20, 2018,
[3] “The presidency of the Southern Transitional Council confirms its rejection of any attempts to target the unit of the southern land,” Southern Transitional Council, March 19, 2018,; “The military file dominates the recent Hadi decisions,” Bawabti, March 20, 2018,; “Leaders and figures from Shabwa province confirm their rejection of the decision to annex Bihan to the third military zone in the province of Marib,” Aden Tomorrow, March 20, 2018,; “Presidential decisions to separate the districts of Behan militarily from Shabwa to anger the southerners,” EREM News, March 16, 2018,; and “Fatah: The formation of the Bayhan axis is a military decision and does not affect the administrative and geographical composition of Shabwa,” Saba New, March 18, 2018,
[4] John Irish and Emmanuel Jarry, “France faces legal risks over Saudi, UAE arms sales: lawyers,” Reuters, March 19, 2018,; and “Rights groups target France over weapons link to Yemen war,” AFP, March 20, 2018,
[5] “Spy plane shot down in Midi,” Al Masirah, March 19, 2018,; and Sana’a forces drop a spy plane belonging to the coalition in Midi,” Al Arab Al Youm, March 19, 2018,
[6] “AMISOM-Ethiopian Troops Drive Out Al Shabaab Militants Out Of Burdhubo District, Gedo Region,” Strategic Intelligence, March 20, 2018,; and “Al-Shabaab militants withdraw from Burdhubo town,” Radio Shabelle, March 20, 2018,
[7] “Exclusive : Farmaajo Sacks 18 Generals In Fresh Military Reforms,” Radio Dalsan, March 15, 2018,; “President Farmajo to Lead Operations against Al-shabab,” Halbeeg, March 18, 2018,; and “Somali Govt Announces New Offensive Against Al Shabaab,” Radio Shabelle, March 18, 2018,

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