The United Arab Emirates has secretly been hiring mercenaries from Colombia to fight in Yemen. This has added a dangerous new aspect to the complicated proxy war which also includes the United States and Iran.
The UAE has slowly been constructing a foreign army in the desert throughout the past five years. The most recent move represents the first combat deployment of the army. People with knowledge of the program have said that this army has been controlled by the Emirati military.
In total, 450 Latin American troops were sent to Yemen by the UAE. While most of these troops are Colombian, some are from Panama, El Salvador or Chile. Right now, Yemen is filled with government armies, armed tribe, terrorist networks and Yemeni militias.
A coalition of countries, including the United States, began a military campaign in Yemen earlier this year. The campaign is mostly being led by Saudi Arabia, and it is against Houthi rebels, who have forced the Yemeni government out of the country’s capital city of Sana. The Houthis are being largely supported by Iran. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia has also been recruiting foreign troops by hiring soldiers from Sudan.
In recent years, hiring mercenaries from foreign countries has proven to be a popular practice in wealthy Middle Eastern countries. Other Middle Eastern countries that have done this include Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE.
Global military analyst Sean McFate said, “Mercenaries are an attractive option for rich countries who wish to wage war yet whose citizens may not want to fight. The private military industry is global now.”
According to McFate the practice was essentially legitimized after the United States heavily relied on foreign contractors in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan last decade.
Military officials from the UAE reportedly made it a point to select Colombian soldiers over troops from other Latin American countries. They said that Colombians have proven to be more effective in guerrilla warfare. It is unclear as to exactly what the UAE hopes to accomplish in Yemen by using the foreign soldiers. Some people have stated that it could be weeks before the Colombian soldiers are exposed to combat.
Also participating in the Saudi Arabian campaign in Yemen is the United States, as American forces have been providing logistical support. Additionally, the Pentagon has sent an American team to Saudi Arabia in order to provide targeting intelligence for airstrikes. Furthermore, the Obama administration has sold billions of dollars in military equipment to the militaries of Saudi Arabia and the UAE. This equipment is currently being used in Yemen.
According to a United Nations report from September, at least 2,355 civilians have been killed since the Saudi Arabian campaign started earlier this year in March. Saudi Arabia received a large amount of criticism for attacking a Doctors Without Borders Hospital in northern Yemen last month.