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: Hadi government rejects Transitional Political Council for Southern Yemen; AQAP claims SVBIED attack on Hadhrami base; U.S. State Department approves arms sale to UAE; AQAP claims SVBIED attack targeting Emirati-backed forces in Hadramawt governorate, eastern Yemen; IOM expands warning on al Hudaydah offensive; WHO reports increase in cholera cases

Horn of Africa: Somali President Farmajo calls for lifting of arms embargo on Somalia; U.S. signals openness to deploying additional ground troops to Somalia; Kenyan President Kenyatta calls for deployment of additional 4,000 AMISOM troops

Yemen Security Brief

The internationally recognized Yemeni government led by President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi rejected the Transitional Political Council for Southern Yemen on May 11. Former Aden governor Aydarus al Zubaidi announced the formation of the Council to govern southern Yemen on May 11. The Hadi government accused the Council of advancing al Houthi-Saleh interests and promised to take “all necessary steps” to preserve Yemen’s unity. Early reports indicate that the Hadi government may be gathering troops at al Abir military base in western Hadramawt governorate, possibly to counter Hadhrami Elite Forces aligned with the Transitional Political Council. Council President Zubaidi and Vice President Hani Ali bin Brik departed Aden to meet with Hadi government and Saudi-led coalition officials in Riyadh on May 12.[1] 

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed the May 10 suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (SVBIED) attack on an Emirati-backed Hadhrami Elite Forces base in Daw’an district, western Hadramawt governorate. The attack killed one Hadhrami soldier and damaged an armored vehicle. Hadhrami Elite Forces deployed additional troops to Daw’an on May 10 following an increase in AQAP attacks in the area.[2]

The U.S. Department of State approved a $2 billion arms sale to the UAE. The sale includes 60 Patriot Advanced Capability 3 missiles and 100 Patriot Guidance Enhanced-Tactical missiles. The UAE has deployed several Patriot air defense systems in Yemen to counter the ballistic missile attacks by the al Houthi-Saleh faction.[3]

The Director of Operations and Emergencies for the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM), Mohammed Abduker, stated that the coalition’s planned offensive on al Hudaydah port would displace more than 400,000 people. IOM had previously predicted the displacement of approximately 200,000 people.[4]

A resurgence of cholera has killed 51 people in multiple areas of Yemen since April 27, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) report. The WHO is building ten new treatment centers in Yemen to combat 2,752 new suspected cases. Yemen’s estimated three million internally displaced persons (IDPs) are susceptible to the outbreak due to insufficient food, lack of clean water, and poor hygiene services. Hadi government Interior Minister Hussein Arab claimed on May 12 that there have been no new cholera cases in the past several months in territory administered by the Hadi government.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo called for the lifting of the 1992 arms embargo on Somalia on May 11. President Farmajo asserted that Somali security forces have struggled to combat al Shabaab using primarily light arms. He asked the international community to support the development of the Somali National Army (SNA) by equipping troops with modern heavy weaponry to fight well-equipped al Shabaab militants. President Farmajo spoke during a gathering of world leaders at the 2017 London Conference on Somalia. The participants, including more than 40 nations and international organizations, agreed to a Security Pact to support and train Somali security forces before the scheduled withdrawal of African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops by 2020. President Farmajo met with U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis on the sidelines of the conference.[6]

The Trump administration signaled its openness to deploying additional U.S. ground forces to Somalia if requested by the Somali Federal Government (SFG). U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis reiterated the current U.S. role in Somalia as an advise-and-assist mission intended to bolster the efforts of SNA and AMISOM troops. Mattis followed up by stating that the administration would consider additional U.S. troops if necessary, reflecting a shift from previous U.S. strategy in Somalia. U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has yet to operate under a March 30 Trump administration directive that eased restrictions on U.S. military activity in the country.[7] 

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta called for AMISOM to deploy an additional 4,000 troops to Somalia on May 11. President Kenyatta said that AMISOM must launch an offensive operation to degrade and contain al Shabaab ahead of scheduled AMISOM withdrawals next year. Kenyatta also committed to maintain Kenyan troops indefinitely in Somalia until Somali forces can independently provide security. Kenyatta, an incumbent presidential candidate, faces an August election challenge from opposition parties calling for Kenya’s withdrawal from Somalia.[8]

[1] “A meeting of the Presidency of the Republic categorically rejects what is called the ‘Transitional Council of the South,” Sabanew, May 11, 2017,; Mohammed al Haddar, Twitter, May 11, 2017,; and “Source: Zubaidi leaves Aden toward Riyadh at the invitation of Saudi Arabia,” Aden Tomorrow, May 12, 2017,
[2] “AQAP Claims Suicide Operation on Yemeni Elite Forces in Hadramawt,” SITE, May 12, 2017, available by subscription at
[3] Ryan Browne and Laura Koran, “US approves $2 billion arms sale to UAE,” CNN, May 11, 2017,
[4] “Attack on Yemeni port would displace at least 400,000 - UN,” Zawya, May 12, 2017,
[5] “WHO responds to resurgent cholera in Yemen,” WHO, May 11, 2017,; and “Arabs confirms the absence of liberated provinces of any cholera cases,” Saba New, May 12, 2017,
[6] Ananya Roy, “Somali president: AK-47s aren’t enough to fight al Shabaab - we need bigger, better arms,” International Business Times, May 12, 2017,; “Somalia signs security pact with backers at London talks,” BBC News, May 11, 2017,; and “London Somalia Conference 2017: security pact,” Government of the United Kingdom, May 11, 2017,
[7] Secretary of Defense James Mattis, “Media Availability with Secretary Mattis Enroute to Washington, D.C.,” U.S. Department of Defense, May 11, 2017,; and Andrew deGrandpre, “The Pentagon would consider sending more US troops to Somalia,” Military Times, May 11, 2017,
[8] “Uhuru says KDF not leaving Somalia soon, calls for more AMISOM troops,” The Star, May 11, 2017,
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