Riyadh: Major combat in Yemen is nearing an end but the country will need long-term support from the Saudi-led coalition to secure its institutions, the coalition spokesman said on Wednesday.
Brigadier General Ahmad Al Assiri also told AFP in an interview that fighting has essentially stopped along the border, where demining has begun in an effort to assist aid flows.
A Saudi-led Arab coalition began air strikes on March 26 last year against Iran-backed Al Houthi militants and their allies, elite troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
“In any military campaign you have phases,” Al Assiri said.
“Today we are in the end of the major combat phase,” which must be followed by security stabilisation and finally reconstruction.
He said the Saudi-led coalition had learnt from the United States which pulled combat troops from Iraq and Afghanistan before the countries were stable.
Nor does the coalition want to follow the example of Libya, where Western forces helped topple dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and then left it to slide into chaos.
“We don’t want that Yemen becomes another Libya, so we have to support the government, go with them step by step until they bring peace and security and stability for the people,” Al Assiri said.
He said that in areas retaken from Iran-backed Al Houthi militants, fighters get training and equipment to join Yemen’s army, “but it takes time”.
The coalition intervened on behalf of Yemen’s legitimate President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi after Al Houthis seized control of large parts of the country including the capital Sana’a.
Backed by air strikes and other coalition support, Yemeni forces have retaken areas in Yemen’s south but Al Houthis still hold the capital.
Al Houthis launched cross-border attacks into Saudi Arabia killing nearly 90 people.
Al Assiri said the border was essentially calm since a mediation effort by tribal leaders last week allowed aid to start moving into Yemen at the Alb crossing in Dhahran Al Janoub, northeast of Jazan city.