Middle East

Ahmad Saleh may head Yemen military unit after overhaul

SANAA: A powerful army general who lost a command in a military reshuffle seen as vital to stabilizing Yemen may be given another senior post in the impoverished country’s armed forces, sources at the presidency said Sunday.

Brig. Gen. Ahmad Saleh, whose Republican Guard was abolished in the shake-up ordered Wednesday by his political rival, President Abed Rabbou Mansour Hadi, is expected to be named as the commander of a military region, the sources said.

Hadi has vowed to unify the army, which is divided between allies and foes of Hadi’s predecessor Ali Abdullah Saleh, whose legacy still looms large in Yemen and who is Gen. Ahmad Saleh’s father.

Hadi’s decrees, restructuring the military into four main units and disbanding the Republican Guard, are widely seen as an attempt to reduce Saleh family influence in the military.

Ahmad Saleh has voiced no public objection to the reshuffle, easing fears of more turmoil in a country in the throes of a tense political transition.

Hadi’s decrees Wednesday also abolished the First Armoured Division, led by Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, a dissident military officer who broke away from Saleh’s forces after the protests began last year. Ahmar welcomed the overhaul.

A source at the presidential palace told Reuters on condition of anonymity that both Ahmad Saleh and Gen. Ahmar would be given some senior positions in the new setup.

“It is expected that President Hadi will issue a decree to appoint Brig. Gen. Ahmad Saleh and Gen. Ali al-Ahmar as commanders for two military regions,” the source said.

The source said the implementation of Wednesday’s decrees could take up to six months, during which time both Ahmad Saleh and Ahmar would remain in control of some military brigades.

Officials at Gen. Saleh’s office were not available for comment.

After a year of protests against his rule, then president Saleh made way for Hadi in February under a Gulf-brokered transition plan backed by Washington and its Western allies.

But the former president’s continuing clout in the army and wider society worries its neighbors and Western nations who fear further conflict could plunge Yemen back into chaos.

Ahmad Saleh Thursday agreed to give up his Scud missiles in apparent compliance with the military shake-up.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 24, 2012, on page 9.

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