Major General Mohammed Ali al-Maqdeshi, the Chief of Staff for the Yemeni “government-in-exile,” the forces loyal to Saudi Arabia, claimed today that his forces are approaching the capital city of Sanaa, and will take the entire city over “within a few days.”
Sanaa has been under the control of the Shi’ite Houthis since late 2014, when after an offensive against them in the northern city of Sadaa turned sour, they quickly swept in and took the capital. After that, the Houthis took most of the country, and in January the government’s leadership resigned. It is these people who, in March, the Saudis declared a government-in-exile and attacked Yemen to reinstall.
It was unclear from Maj. Gen. Maqdeshi’s comments where these troops headed to Sanaa are coming from. The pro-Saudi forces have a power base along the southern coast, but attempts to move north into the city of Taiz ended indecisively, and the latest word was that fighting was focused on Mukayris, as the southern forces tried to open a route to Sanaa.
Even if the southern forces had a straight shot at Sanaa, which they almost certainly don’t, it is unthinkable that the entire city would fall within a matter of days at any rate, as the central city of Taiz, thought to be tenuously held and much less important than the actual capital of the country, has already resisted takeover for over a week.
Maj. Gen. Maqdeshi appeared, rather, to be extremely over-optimistic, following up his predictions of a quick win in Sanaa by vowing that the entire nation would be “liberated” in short order in the wake of that fight. Though pro-Saudi forces became much more optimistic, and aggressive, after taking the southern port of Aden, they have struggled to advance northward very far.
Even keeping the southern territory, including Aden, is providing problematic for them, as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which has been piggybacking on anti-Houthi efforts elsewhere to seize territory, is moving into a lot of the pro-Saudi cities, including Aden, and facing little resistance in doing so.