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Yemen president appoints new chief of staff

Al Auqaili replaces Al Maqdashi who has been appointed military adviser to Hadi as well as envoy to Arab coalition

Gulf News

Al Mukalla: Yemen’s president on Monday dismissed the army’s chief of staff and replaced him with a little known army general as his forces engage in heavy fighting with Al Houthis.

The state-run Saba news agency reported that Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi issued a presidential decree appointing Major General Taher Ali Al Auqaili as chief of staff.

Mohammad Al Maqdashi, the former chief of staff, has been appointed military adviser to Hadi as well as envoy to the Saudi-led Arab coalition.

Al Maqdashi took charge as chief of staff in May 2015, a month after Saudi Arabia and allied Arab countries began a military operation to reinstate Hadi’s government and blunt Al Houthis’ rapid expansion across Yemen.

Al Maqdashi’s supporters say the man has laid the foundation of a new “non-partisan” army and contributed to merging thousands of resistance fighters into the country’s military armed forces.

Critics say that despite massive funds from the Saudi-led coalition, thousands of military personnel are months in arrears amid strong rumours about widespread corruption.

Military experts criticise Al Maqdashi for not being able to break months of military stalemate on the battlefield despite having air support and logistics from the Saudi-led coalition.

Since rolling into Nehim district, just outside of Al Houthi-held Sana’a, almost two years ago, government forces have inched across the district’s rugged mountains disappointing many expectations that they are close to liberating Sana’a. Other government forces in Jawf, Sa’ada, Marib and Shabwa have not scored major territorial gains for months.

Gen Al Auqaili’s was the commander of 9th Infantry Brigade in the northern Jawf and took part in military operations that drove Al Houthis out of most of the province, including the capital Hazem.

Meanwhile, military sources in the southern city of Taiz said on Tuesday that fighting broke out between government forces and Al Houthi fighters backed renegade army soldiers loyal to ousted president on the eastern, northern and western edges of the city.

Colonel Abdul Basit Al Baher, deputy spokesperson for the Supreme Military Council in Taiz, told Gulf News that Al Houthi fighters on Monday staged an attack against government forces in the presidential palace and other locations on the eastern suburbs of the city.

“We pushed them back and traded mortar fire with them. They also tried to sneak into army troops’ positions in Al Wazyia.” Al Baher said.

Government forces completely control the city’s downtown and some locations in the eastern and western suburbs.

Al Houthi militia are in control of the southern and northern suburbs and the main road to Sana’a.