By Skye An
The arrival of 450 Latin American mercenaries in Yemen last month has introduced yet another dangerous element to the turbulent conflict within the area.
The Emirates army had secretly created this foreign army over the course of five years, and it was once under the management of Erik Prince, an American businessman and founder of Academi (formerly Blackwater USA), a U.S. government security company. However, Prince had been relieved of his involvement with the project years ago, and the foreign army had been managed by the Emirates army ever since.
The foreign army primarily consists of Colombian troops, but there are also Salvadoran, Chilean, and Panamanian troops involved in the fighting. This just adds on to the mounting problems for Yemen amidst the many armed factions and terrorist networks persisting within the country.
The introduction of this mercenary army reaffirms a rising trend of wealthy Arab nations turning more aggressive militarily. Yet Arab nations like The Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar are unused to such prolonged warfare, and their populations who are mutually disinterested in military service also hinder their performance in the conflict.
Though the exact objective of the army is unclear, Emirati officials have made it evident that they had specifically chosen Colombian troops over other Latin American troops for the purpose of building off of the Colombian foundation which consists of soldiers who are more experienced in guerilla warfare after spending years fighting the Revolutionary Armed Force of Colombia (FARC).
Keeping these Colombian troops is also not a problem for the Emirates who provide the troops with high salaries and insurance. Many Colombians have left their native army in favor of fighting for the Emirates to secure more money to send back home to their families. To some extent however, this has caused a drain in firepower for Latin America as more of their troops get employed by the Emirates.
Nonetheless, the foreign army continues to add to the dynamics of the many sides of the Yemen conflict. For the Yemen supporters (U.S., Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates), the presence of a foreign army gives them more opportunities to go on the offensive. For the Yemen opponents (Houthi rebels and Iran), the foreign army has yet to pose serious problems, but its introduction to the battlefield pushes them on high alert.
As the conflict rages on in Yemen, time will tell whether it was worth investing in this secret foreign army.