US SOF Leaving Yemen, Unstated Ramifications…

Posted on: March 21st, 2015 by Will Rodriguez 54 Comments
USMC Photo

CNN reports that 100 US Special Ops forces, the last present in Yemen, are being withdrawn because of a deteriorating security situation.  This announcement should raise a list of questions, concerns and demonstrate some important truths.

Why are we withdrawing completely from the administration’s only vaunted counter insurgency success?  One’s first response might be, “Well, it isn’t as successful as the administration depicted.”  Not such a stretch, remembering the ISIS as JV or AQ as decimated comments but considering the Iranian backed Houthis recent success at toppling the nominal pro US regime there is another possibility.  Is this a planned abdication of influence by the administration to Iran?  Something in line with the administration’s suspected efforts to establish Iran as the Middle East’s guarantor of stability?  Few have noticed Iran and Hezbollah’s removal from 2015’s “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community” in the midst of a nuclear weapons negotiation.

The other concern is with the increasing instability in Yemen, punctuated by this week’s mosque bombing that killed over a hundred and caused several hundred casualties, what are the implications for Saudi Arabia?  Saudi Arabia could soon see a two front assault on its stability.  One threat is from the ISIS/Iran struggle to the north. (I don’t mention the US because the current approach projects no sustainment of US influence in the region after the fight.)  The other emerging threat is the now Iranian backed Houthis vs. ISIS/AQ and the previous governments beaten forces in Aden.  Two front wars are very effective at splitting an enemy’s attention and resources, a planned event or coincidence?

Finally, the withdrawal of 100 SOF troops from Yemen because of political instability demonstrates an often unstated SOF weakness.  Due to their light footprint, SOF is often unable to defend itself.  That is unless it embeds itself with a side that can provide that protection and in effect picking a side in an internal struggle.  The other solution may be to deploy conventional troops which can reinforce the idea of a foreign invasion.   None of these are great outcomes but should be kept in mind as one weighs courses of action.

In summary, the withdrawal of our last remaining SOF in Yemen leaves one much to think about if one is thinking about the region at all.

Be Respectful, Candid and Pertinent. No Posers, No Trolls…
  • LawyerHandle

    Most importantly this almost certainly puts us back at square one in the fight against AQAP.

  • LawyerHandle 
    Or even worse if we are farming out fighting radical Islamists to the Iranians.   The same guys who made agreements with AQ…

  • .
    …American foreign policy seems to be one of a blowing of explosive bolts in the region.  Deja vu back to when Cambodia went, followed by Vietnam and Laos.  At least that time around we weren’t trying to cozy up to the North Vietnamese.  
    .
    …Is there a “fallback position?”  Are we firming up in other areas, or will the collapse continue?  Does anybody at the White House or State have a clue?  Does anybody with stars at the Pentagon have the guts to tell it like it is to the Administration? Is the final fallback line at Atlantic City?
    .
    -YP-

  • YankeePapa 
    I really fear the Mosaic story on the administration’s vision of Iran’s role in the region is absolutely correct.  It explains a lot of irrational decision making and actions.  http://mosaicmagazine.com/essay/2015/02/obamas-secret-iran-strategy/

  • majrod YankeePapa ,
    .
    …In 1938 Hitler got what he wanted from France and the UK… the most heavily fortified part of Czechoslovakia… (he would later just absorb the rest…)  But he had to make sure that the Czechs were not going to fight… If they put up enough of a struggle there was a chance that France and the UK might back off their deal and interfere in some manner. 
    .
    …Czechoslovakia’s fortifications and armaments were sufficient to hold out for quite some time.  Blitzkrieg had no chance to show its stuff against the Czechs.  
    .
    …So massive pressure was put on the Czech head of government.  In the presence of Hitler and Goering he was browbeaten into submission… signing away the country’s freedom.  
    .
    …The Czech people were stunned and outraged.  Many carried signs saying, “We paid for the weapons… let us use them.”  But the government folded.  
    .
    …While Holland and Norway’s leaders went into exile… Belgium’s King remained and surrendered so quickly as to threaten the escape of the Allied force that had gone to its aid.  
    .
    …In Switzerland, the Army and the government got together and worked out an arrangement where absolutely *nobody* in the government or military had the authority to surrender if the country was invaded.  All citizens required to ignore any surrender announcement and keep fighting.  
    .
    …In the United States if a President is giving away the circus, our check on that is the Congress.  One veto proof vote can knock the train off the tracks.  Will Congress act in the interest of the Republic?  Hear that hollow sound…?
    .
    -YP-

  • YankeePapa majrod 
    As an aside, I always found it fascinating how the Germans integrated Czech equipment and their war industry into their efforts.  A lot of very sound equipment (e.g. cannon, tanks, tank chassis, machineguns) were used by Nazi troops.

  • majrod YankeePapa ,
    .
    …After the war, ca. 1948, Israel used Czechoslovakia as its main arms supplier.  Mauser rifles manufactured in Czech plants along with many other weapons.  
    .
    …Czechs also manufactured ME-109s that the Israelis purchased… but Czechs did not manufacture the engines… so another type (from a twin engine bomber?) had to be used.  It worked, and the Israelis were desperate… but the ersatz replacement engine gave the 109 handling problems that it didn’t need.  
    .
    …The Israelis lost a few planes and pilots before they figured it out.  At the end of the 1948 war the 109s were scrapped except for a couple for monument mounts on a couple of air bases.  
    .
    -YP-

  • toril

    Shades of Czechoslovakia and Austria all over again, I wonder when the administration will finally realize they have to do something (and no cozying up to Iran is not the anwser).

  • toril 
    I see this as more as Saudi Arabia as Germany being forced into a two front war and us as Germany signing the Molotov-Ribbentrop treaty with Russia played by modern Iran.
    Didn’t turn out too well for Germany, Poland, Eastern Europe not to mention 50 mil dead.

  • LawyerHandle
  • toril

    majrod toril Hadn’t thought of that one but yes that is an excellent comparison as well.

  • Saudi Arabia moving armor and artillery to the border with Yemen.

    http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/M/ML_YEMEN?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2015-03-25-12-20-57

    Remember, Saudi Arabia has a Shiite minority in its east where its most wealthiest oil deposits are.

  • majrod ,
    .
    …Saudis have a problem… number of them actually.  If they are going to intervene, they have to do it now before a Shiite government in place… soon to be followed by Iranian “advisers”, followed by Iranian installations, aircraft and troops.  
    .
    …But the Saudis, for all the vast amounts of money that they have spent on military hardware… are not truly “professional” on the ground… especially in infantry.  Their regular army is more of a first line of defense, backed up by the politically reliable “National Guard…”
    .
    …Saudi senior officers got some experience in Gulf War One, but that was a generation ago.  The Saudis might take the cities and airfields… I have some doubts about how they would do in the back country.  This could be a real “tar baby” for them.

    .
    …But doing nothing will make their position ugly.  Might be that if they are lining up Arab contingents (that would only show if Saudis went in in force…)  
    .
    …Watch this space…
    .
    -YP-

  • YankeePapa majrod 
    FWIW my perspective and why on Saudi military capability:
    My interaction with SA’s military is limited and based on my time in military schools with them, a month or two in the port of Dammam getting my BN unloaded from ships so we couild get in the fiedl and train a little before crossingthe berm during DS and the input from my peers who have done tours as advisory staff in the ’90’s and early ’00’s.
    The Saudi’s like many nations (e.g. Venezuela, Iran, Iraq), have two armies.  A large one of varied quality and a small politically reliable and well equipped one.  Note: I didn’t say trained or capable.
    The Saudi’s spend a lot of money on gear.  My assessment is most of it is eye candy.  Their role in Desert Storm was not central operationally but important politically.  They required a great degree of miliytary support and guidance to the point we had embedded officers in at least the BDE level.  The Saudi National Guard are the best equipped.
    My personal insight is that their leadership sucks. My earliest interaction was a Saudi nominal prince who was in my Infantry Officer Basic Course.  Early in the course he showed up in a limo.  That stopped quickly.  On one week long field exercise in the GA summer I remember our platoon training NCO having to tell the Saudi Lieutenant to ruck up since he was dragging ass.  The Saudi blew up and said, “On my country you’d be carrying my pack.”
    (This is where the voice over says, “Oh no you didn’t…”)
    SFC “Stud” (I forget his name from 30 years ago but NCO’s selected to mentor brand new Army LT’s into Infantry LT’s aren’t slouches) pulled up to his towering 10′ hieght overlooking the Saudi Prince and said, “Well ____ you ain’t in your country and maybe that’s the reason the Israelis keep kicking your asses.”
    (and again the voice over says, “Oh no you didn’t!”)
    The Saudi scrambled to his feet as a bunch of Lieutenants inserted themselves between the NCO and the “Prince” which had devolved into cursing in his native tongue.  The parties were separated. Our company trainer CPT _____ who was waiting to go to selection (Delta) sent the Saudi back to the rear after a talking to on the side.  I heard later he was talked to by quite a few officers and was almost sent back to his country which got him a lot more visibility than he likely wanted.  He was sullen but behaved the rest of the course.
    Anyway, the point of this enetertaining story is the type of leadership Saudi soldiers got from their leaders.
    Just as insightful was that Arab students just didn’t stand out on any of the professional courses I attended (e.g. basic, advanced branch courses, combined arms staff course etc.),  which is unlike just about every other country that sent students to the states.  Generally foreign students have not been in the upper fifth of the class in performance (with some notable exceptions) but almost to a man they were in the upper tenth in effort except for the Arab countries and some S. American nations who made partying and shopping their focus.
    Most important was the feedback I got from peer field grade officers on the capability of the Saudis’ armies.  First, the Saudis don’t do maintenance.  They have American contractors and foreign workers do everything from maintain their equipment to clean it.  They don’t do supply well.  Saudis don’t do physical labor (the Kuwaitis either) and are rich enough to pay someone else to do it.  Having a contractor deliver fuel, food and ammo doesn’t work well in combat and not at all when you are projecting power across a border.  
    Other Arab countries have similar practices.  None except for maybe Jordan and Egypt have “proactive” perspectives and habits.  They also don’t do their due diligence in the planning and logistical areas necessary for successful combat ops.

    The bottom line is the Saudis have a well equipped military.  The Saudi Army polices the Saudi population and does a nominal job at border security.  Their capability to do force on force is a question mark, maybe a “7”.  Not as bad as the Iraqis in Mosul against ISIS but nit as competent as Jordanian and Egyptian units if one is a student of their performance against Israeli troops or the PLO.  The Saudi National Guard is probably capable of a minimal amount of projecting military power.  They are likely most effective at population control like they did in Bahrain recently than fighting an armed force.  

    All of this should come to mind as we consider creating local “proxy” forces.  It all starts and ends with leadership.  And dare I say it, leadership at the officer level because NCO Corps do not come into existence or flourish without the support and resourcing by officers, an unstated military fact.  Of course, the conduct of war (strategy, planning, logistics etc.) rests firmly on the officer corps.

  • majrod YankeePapa ,
    .
    …No, the Saudi’s wouldn’t be big on NCO’s on the British/American model.  That is a major weakness in many armies.  They either have officers doing NCO work… or it doesn’t get done very well.  
    .
    …The Russians send promising young lads out of basic to NCO school, but that is not the same and a hard ass NCO corps.  During the (essentially) civil war in El Salvador, every time that a unit got a lad that should have been made an NCO… they commissioned him instead.  
    .
    …Good officers with good NCOs under them make an unbeatable team.  You think that the Saudis and others might understand that… but a country with more princes than home grown surgeons likely to operate on a different basis…
    .
    -YP-

  • majrod YankeePapa ,
    .
    …Woman that I know.  Her ex-husband barely made it to retirement at 20 years in the Air Force because he weighed about 6 Danish tons and his blood pressure heading for Mars.  
    .
    …He could barely change a light-bulb… but Air Force had him swapping out F-15 engines.  Headhunter recruited him in late ’97 to go to Saudi Arabia on very lucrative contract… swapping out F-15 engines for the Saudis.  Still there as far as I know. That many years… wealthy as they are… and they did not train up their own people.

    .
    …Seems that he liked to drink… a lot.  Of course Saudi Arabia officially dry.  But it seems that foreign contractors can always pull up a barstool in the British compound…
    .
    -YP-

  • LawyerHandle

    The Saudis are getting ready to move against the Iranians in Yemen while we are now directly and overtly helping the Iranians in Tikrit, Iraq… The administration can no longer credibly state that we aren’t working with Iran in Iraq.
    http://hotair.com/archives/2015/03/25/report-us-support-for-iranian-operations-in-iraq-to-evolve-from-covert-to-overt/

  • YankeePapa majrod 
    As to your comment on officers and NCO’s being an unbeatable team.  Absolutely agree.
    Yes, many countries to include the Russians and most of our S. American allies just don’t seem to get the value of NCO’s.
    On the other hand, as a nation we don’t get the value of officers based on the overwhelming amount of disparaging remarks made about them across the board. 
    It’s among the last acceptable bigotry.

  • LawyerHandle 
    Check out my Tikrit story.

  • majrod YankeePapa ,
    .
    …While there are some people out there who should know better who either disparage officers… or say nothing when others do… the majority of the crap *within* the military and vet community comes from guys who were lucky to make E-3.  Some did… several times…
    .
    …A solid officer corps and rock hard NCO’s could handle any crap from within the ranks… unless some high brass are more about their careers than the good order and discipline of the service. 
    .
     When top brass more interested in kowtowing to politicos…(as happened between WW2 and Korea), field and company grade officers have a harder time enforcing the standards.  
    .
    …Outside the military, many politicos want the military to be as “democratic and well run” as the society from which they come.  They got that before Korea.  Lot of company and field grade officers died in the early days killing tanks (even one general at Taejon), or acting as rear guard… because nobody else was willing to do it.  
    .
    …We are nowhere near that level …yet…  But another far Left administration and the rot will spread.
    .
    -YP-

  • YankeePapa majrod 
    Agree wholeheartedly with your comments but I think there’s a generation gap my friend.  It used to be those that did not progress very far that made the most disparaging remarks about officers.
    Since I have retired I have been taken aback by the volume & vehemence of officer hating comments and the fact they come from junior and senior NCO’s.
    They are decidedly not the same grade of NCO I had the privilege and honor of serving with and who I credit with much of my success.

    Movies like Pork Chop Hill and Patton that characterized the public’s perception of officers have been replaced with Platoon and Generation X.

  • majrod YankeePapa
    .
    “…I have been taken aback by the volume
    & vehemence of officer hating comments and the fact they come from
    junior and senior NCO’s…”
    .
    …You are right.  A generation gap.  Too many years have passed.  I think that I will move my retirement quarters a few days farther from Hadrian’s Wall and maybe place a few rivers between it and myself in the process…
    .
    -YP-

  • LawyerHandle

    The Saudis just launched air strikes in Yemen… This is just unreal.

  • toril

    LawyerHandle agree and Majrod’s remark about a war on two fronts for the Saudis is coming ever closer to reality, can’t see how this is going to end well.

  • toril

    majrod YankeePapa You paint a very vivid picture of the incident with the prince, majrod.

  • LawyerHandle 
    Remember where you saw it first…
    Sadly…

  • toril majrod YankeePapa 
    It’ll make a good story in a book someday.

  • LawyerHandle

    I don’t know who this author is but his willful ignorance about how the Iranians have already intervened in Yemen, making it a regional issue, makes me think he is just trying to push the White House line…
    http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/03/yemen-intervention-116396.html?hp=m1#.VRRCEoo8LCQ

  • LawyerHandle 
    It’s good to read different perspectives.  This author makes a point of
    not discussing any foreign involvement and focusing on internal Yemeni
    dissent.  Informative but misleading if one thinks this is purely a
    Yemeni show.
     
    Not as blatant as the press secretary sticking to the narrative that
    Yemen is a counter terror success.  One can walk away with a couple of
    factual tidbits like, “yes, we are still trying to kill AQ in Yemen” or
    understanding the machinations of the Houthis in internal Yemeni
    politics.  Worthless in determining future courses of action which does
    support the administrations foreign policy direction.

  • LawyerHandle

    Report from the LA Times that the Iranian backed Houthis have captured files left behind in Yemen about US counterterrorism operations…
    http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-us-intelligence-yemen-20150325-story.html

  • LawyerHandle 
    Absolutely impossible.  It was a methodically planned and executed embassy evacuation.

  • .
    …Reported tonight that 100 Saudi aircraft involved.  Ground troops haven’t entered yet.  Report that both Jordan and Egypt have offered naval vessels (largely for blockade purposes) and ground troops.  
    .
    …Israeli Defence Force has fair amount of respect for both ground forces… though it has been quite a while since either has been in heavy combat.  Certainly better than Saudi ground troops.  Who knows, the Saudis may get a decade of experience… 
    .
    …Meanwhile, Iran is muttering threats of direct involvement.  The U.S. remains a ship in a storm with a damaged rudder.  
    .
    -YP-

  • YankeePapa 
    Links would be helpful

  • YankeePapa 
    I also saw this. http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/article16352546.html

    Interesting how Pakistan promised a strong response if Saudi territory is threatened.

  • SEAN SPOONTS(MAFIA)

    majrod YankeePapa I had a similar experience with SA Navy in SAR school in Jacksonville.  Two Saudi E-5s were sent to Rescue Swimmer school in 1982. They were in the US representing their country and their Navy to the best Navy on the planet.  We expected they would be pretty motivated to make a good showing.   Well, they both sucked.  They could barely swim, they were out of shape and were as motivated as Gen. Picketts men when he mentioned a second charge at the guns at Gettysburg.  They didn’t graduate with us and were sent home in the 3rd week because they just couldn’t cut it on any level. 
      Now, these were the first two guys SA had ever sent to Rescue Swimmer School.  You can figure the Saudis had the gouge on what a tough school it was and would have carefully picked the two best people they could find in their entire navy.  And they still sucked and didn’t make past the 3rd week.  No different in 92 during Desert Storm and unlikely they are any different today. 

     I do hear their fighter pilots are reasonably good though.  

    What is that? 50 pilots?

  • .
    … Egyptians seem up to sending troops.  Interesting.  Yemen was Egypt’s Vietnam in the 1960s…
    .

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/27/world/middleeast/saudi-arabia-houthis-yemen.html?_r=0
    .
    -YP-

  • SEAN SPOONTS(MAFIA) majrod YankeePapa 
    They have over 200 F15’s alone.  
    I was told a story once about an Arabic pilot student (can’t confirm it or say he was Saudi).  Bought a brand new RV and was driving it across the desert back to base.  Wanted to get a drink or use the bathroom and set the auto pilot.
    When the State Police pulled him out of the RV after it rolled on to its side they explained the difference between cruise control and an auto pilot.

  • LauraKinCA

    majrod SEAN SPOONTS(MAFIA) YankeePapa  OMG!! now there’s a harsh lesson…

  • .
    …Seems that any gun can play… Pakistan offering to send troops… Talk of Saudis using air strikes to prepare way for ground offensive… 
    .
    http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/warships-move-in-key-strait-as-airstrikes-widen-in-yemen/ar-AAa4LXq
    .
    -YP-

  • LawyerHandle

    Another article about the Obama Admin.’s total lack of understanding what is actually at stake in Yemen… Obama can no longer credibly state that he has put together a true coalition to fight ISIS in Iraq b/c the Saudis are showing the world what a real coalition looks like w/ what they are putting together to deal w/ Yemen. The Saudi ambassador was making the media rounds yesterday and flat says that the U.S. is providing no help w/ the planning in Yemen- a claim that flies in the face of way Obama is trying to spin these latest developments.
    Here’s a good quote from the article:
    “Scott Atran, a Mideast analyst with Artis Research who has worked closely with U.S. government agencies as a consultant, tells The Daily Beast, “There was no preparation for [Yemen] and no understanding that I can see within senior U.S. policy circles that the wider Sunni-Shia conflict is what it is all about. The Saudis feel they are fighting for their very existence.””
    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/03/26/america-loses-no-matter-who-wins-the-next-great-middle-east-war.html

  • LawyerHandle

    “With its intervention in Yemen, Saudi Arabia is serving notice that it will no longer tolerate Iran’s unchecked expansion — nor will it count on the United States to protect its interests in the Middle East, [Mustafa] Alani said.
    “It started with Lebanon, then Syria, then Iraq and now Yemen. It’s like a domino, and Yemen is the first attempt to stop the domino,” he said. “Now there is
    an awakening in the region, a counterstrategy, and Yemen is the testing ground. It is not just about Yemen, it is about changing the balance of power in the region.”
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/how-the-yemen-conflict-risks-new-chaos-in-the-middle-east/2015/03/27/1c4e7b5c-d417-11e4-8b1e-274d670aa9c9_story.html
    “Alani blamed the United States and its pursuit of a deal with Iran for the expansion of Iranian influence that triggered the Saudi intervention.”
    Hmm… where have I heard that before….

  • LawyerHandle
  • LawyerHandle

    This article touches on a number of issues but here’s a good quote re: Iran’s grand plan:
    “For its part, Saudi Arabia is issuing statements that could have been written in Jerusalem. “Iran is an aggressive state that is intervening and operating forces in the Arab world,” Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said this week at a joint press conference with his British counterpart, Philip Hammond. “Its nuclear weapons are a threat to the Gulf and the entire world.”
    He then went on to convey a message to the Obama administration, saying: “Striking a deal that Iran doesn’t deserve is not right. Think, too, about the dangerous ramifications of the Iranians’ ‘second plan.'”
    This “second plan”, about which Israeli intelligence officials have been warning for the past five years, involves Iran’s desire for Shiite control over the Arab world, with the ultimate objective being control over the Muslim holy sites in Saudi Arabia.
    “We’re dealing with two parallel courses of action,” says influential Saudi media pundit Jamal Khashoggi. “If they halt the nuclear program by means of military force or a diplomatic move, as the Americans a currently trying to do, the Iranians will still be left with the threatening alternative of ‘creeping progress’ on the ground, throughout the Arab world.”
    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4641659,00.html

  • LawyerHandle
  • LawyerHandle 
    I am going to start looking in more detail as to where this is going.
    The framing question will be, “What will the ME look like with Iran on the verge of nuclear capability?”
    The answer includes nuclear arms race, internal instability in ME nations, proxy conflict among Muslim nations with pending direct conflict and pre-emptive strikes, US forces in the middle (don’t see us closing up shop in Kuwait, Oman, Qatar etc.), diminishing US international leadership role, impact on oil prices/worldwide economy which all creates more instability…

  • LawyerHandle 
    I no longer believe there is a lack of understanding.  There may be a misunderstanding.  No one can be this incompetent but someone could believe this is going to turn out very differently than it is if one buys into a bankrupt anti-colonialist perspective of the world.
    There are those that believe we are where we are because we have oppressed others.  They see a US decline as correcting previous wrongs. 

    To keep seeing our foreign policy as aimless or just incompetent mistakes is to fundamentally misunderstand the problem.  It risks staying on this track, keeping or letting these people become decision makers again or allowing this sort of insanity to repeat itself in the future.  This is why isolationism is getting a second chance in some circles…

  • LawyerHandle

    Where it’s going in the present/very near future is a full blown Arab vs. Persian war across the region from Lebanon through Syria/Iraq and into Yemen.

  • .
    …The White House has decided to stop punishing Egypt for not surrendering to the Moslem Brotherhood. 
    .
    http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2015/0331/US-cites-national-security-in-resumed-weapons-flow-to-Egypt
    .
    … Elsewhere in Africa, the 54 member African Union has selected Robert Mugabe to head the organization.  (“All hope abandon ye…”)
    .
    -YP-

  • .
    …Article questioning the value of our Arab “allies” in the region… especially with regard to Syria.
    .
    http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-ashford-allies-against-islamic-state-20150402-story.html
    .
    -YP-

  • YankeePapa 
    Interesting and informative.  I wish the LA Times was as informative about our lack of leadership, the decision to not leave a residual force and the impact on US credibility of not enforcing the chemical weapons red line…

  • majrod YankeePapa ,
    .
    …It is depressing.  As I get older it gets harder to research, write, and publish articles.  But I haven’t gotten old enough yet that I can tune out what is happening to this country, here and abroad.  Possibly senility is underrated…
    .
    -YP-