UAE Building Huge Militia Army in Yemen to Undermine Govt

UAE-backed forces land on contested island of Socotra

While the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been reducing the number of UAE military personnel in Yemen, returning them home because of tensions in the Persian Gulf, they are also continuing to push to try to increase the size of UAE-loyal militias within Yemen, retaining substantial influence in the country.

As the Saudi-led invasion continues to stretch on in Yemen, retaining control over seized territory is a priority. The Saudis and the UAE may be on the same side on paper, but post war, the UAE would much prefer to have Emirati loyalists controlling the most valuable territory. The UAE is growing its forces envisioning them contesting control of areas after the Houthis are expelled from them, as opposed to Saudi-backed forces.

This not only sets up a potential round of fights after the current Yemen War, but threatens unrest right now. Emirati-backed forces on the remote Yemeni island of Socotra continue to undermine stability in the area, fueling protests among locals who say their island has seen no fighting during the entire war, and the only military exercises were Yemeni-backed forces landing on the island and taking it over.

Socotra’s distance from mainland Yemen has kept it separate from the conflict, but its location in the Arabian Sea makes it potentially valuable in the post-war era, which is what UAE military operations seem to be looking toward.

The UAE has been envisioning itself as a major regional power for awhile, and is using proxy forces to make up for their own relatively small size and population.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.