The conflict in Yemen is broadening to include more conflict between defecting and loyalist elite military units, as well as increasing violence between the government and key tribes.
Tribal military reinforcements are headed toward the capital. Thousands of tribesmen are en route to Sana’a to stand behind Sheikh Sadiq al Ahmar. Clashes between the tribesmen and security forces have occurred at a military post nine miles north of the capital.
Defected General Ali Mohsen al Ahmar reportedly deployed troops in support of the Hashid tribesmen. The general commands an estimated 40,000 troops, compared to Saleh’s 50,000 to 60,000 troops, and his decision to weigh in militarily may significantly affect developments in Yemen.
Fighting in Sana’a and Taiz is unlikely to end soon. Tribesmen have engaged Yemeni security forces and elite units, such as the Republican Guard and counter-terrorism forces, in urban warfare in Sana’a. Protestors continued to clash with Yemeni security forces and soldiers in Taiz.
The convergence of tribesmen on Sana’a, the decision of defected units to back the tribesmen, and the involvement of elite units create the conditions in Yemen for widespread civil war. A broader armed conflict could lead to state fragmentation and would expand al Qaeda safe-havens. The American reaction so far seems to remain focused on persuading Saleh to step down, but growing indications suggest that he is unlikely to do so.
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