UAE-trained cadets of the Yemeni police, supporting forces loyal to the Saudi and UAE-backed government, lining-up during their graduation in the southeastern port city of Mukalla. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: The UAE Armed Forces have said that since April 2015 the UAE has trained and equipped about 60,000 Yemeni forces to fight Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in order to restore peace, and rebuild and stabilise Yemen.

Addressing a press conference in Dubai alongside UAE Minister of State of Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Gargash, Brigadier Musallam Al Rashedi of the UAE Armed Forces said, “You can’t kill your way to victory against AQAP in Yemen with drones and air raids. Ultimately, it is a competition for the people’s support. We train Yemeni forces, and provide them with equipment and intelligence inputs to enable them to combat the extremists.”

Anwar Gargash and Brigadier Musallam Al Rashedi at a press conference held in Dubai on Monday. Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Brigadier Al Rashedi denied a report about UAE forces cutting secret deals with the militants to get them to abandon territory saying it is “wrong accusation”.

“They are not willing to negotiate, there is no point to negotiate with them as they don’t want to negotiate.” He added that since 2015, some 1,000 “core” AQAP fighters had been killed, including 13 most-wanted leaders, while 1,500 have been captured.

Dr Gargash told reporters that all parties should accept their part in what they are doing in Yemen’s war.

“In this war we have seen civilians killed and bombed. War is not something that can be a clean operation unfortunately. I think all parties need to accept their part in what they are doing,” Dr Gargash said.

He was referring to an the operation that took place on August 9 in the governorate of Saada.

Emirati Brigadier General Ali Saif Al Kaabi, commander of the Saudi and UAE coalition forces. AFP

The coalition said on Friday it would investigate the strike. On Saturday, Saudi Arabia’s state news agency SPA said Riyadh’s mission to the world body delivered a message to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres reiterating that the raid was “legitimate” and targeted Al Houthi leaders “responsible for recruiting and training young children”.

The UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths has been shuttling between the warring sides ahead of consultations in Geneva on September 6 to try to end the conflict.

Dr Gargash said he believes Al Houthis will continue to be a major obstacle to a political solution in Yemen.

“Al Houthis are the one who undermined all previous initiatives. This political process in Geneva will test them. I think Al Houthis will continue to be a major obstacle to the political process in Yemen.”

Police motorcycles provided to Yemeni police trained by the UAE forces, in Mukalla, the capital of Hadramawt province. AFP

Brigadier Al Rashedi also said AQAP in Yemen had been damaged to such an extent that its ability to export terrorism internationally was now almost negligible. In 2015, when the Coalition began counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations in the country, AQAP governed swathes of strategic territory, including densely populated port cities.

It used the taxes it collected from these cities to finance its operations and recruit new fighters. He said it was essential to train the Yemeni forces to carry out operations on the ground.

An Yemeni soldier being trained in mine clearance and dismantling at a centre funded by the UAE Armed Forces. AFP

“Where once it was ruling and plotting, Al Qaida is now running and hiding. We have deprived them of their safe havens, finance streams, and recruitment pools. The terrorists have been pushed back into the wilderness, territorially and politically. Counter-terrorism is as much a battle for hearts and minds as it is for military victory; it is essential that this campaign is waged and won by Yemenis. We cannot become complacent; we will not end our support until there are no terrorists left in Yemen.”