Yemeni Soldiers Accused of Mutiny Could Have Received U.S. Aid

Middle East and North Africa

Yesterday, an elite unit within Yemen’s Ministry of Interior reportedly attempted a mutiny of their current commander Mohammed Mansour al-Ghadraa, who was appointed in September of this year. Mutineers are said to have fired weapons and been chanting, “leave, leave,” before Yemeni presidential guards were deployed to quell the mutineers.

While it’s unclear exactly which elite unit the soldiers came from, it appears that the soldiers were part of the Central Security Forces, which has received significant U.S. military aid in the past. According to an Associate Press article, the soldiers originated from an elite unit that used to be led by former President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s nephew, Brigadier General Yahya Saleh. Up until 2012, Yahya was the chief of staff for the Ministry of Interior’s Central Security Forces and also oversaw the creation of the Central Security Services’ elite Counter-Terrorism Unit (CTU).

The Central Security Forces was a favorite unit of the United States and the Saleh regime, receiving better pay, equipment and training than other security force units. Although it is not clear if the Central Security Forces received any of this assistance, in Fiscal Year 2012 the U.S. government provided $75 million exclusively to the Ministry of Interior for counterterrorism enhancement including equipment and trainings. What is publicly available is that the Central Security Forces received at least $734,362 in trainings from FY2004-FY2013. This includes the CTU, an elite U.S. trained counterterrorism unit within the Central Security Forces that received trainings from State and Defense Department funded accounts, including a $400,000 Joint Combined Exchange Training (JECT) in FY 2007.

According to Michael Knights of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the Central Security Forces has been a 50,000-strong largely autonomous branch within the Ministry of the Interior focused on securing government buildings, important infrastructure and security checkpoints on Yemen’s highways as well as counter-surveillance on suspected terrorists. The CTU is a 150-person special forces unit trained in counterterrorism raids and occasionally used to fight against the Houthis instead of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Yemen has been an ally of the United States in its efforts to combat terrorism for over a decade and has received significant amounts of military aid as a result. From FY 2011 to FY 2014 alone, the United States provided Yemen $343 million in security assistance, with a majority of that aid focused on counterterrorism.

Early reports suggest the mutineers are former-President Saleh loyalists and according to Yemen’s official SABA news agency, the Interior Minister has appointed Abdel-Razak al-Marouni as the new commander of the Central Security Forces replacing the former commander al-Ghadraa.