Wars in Yemen, Afghanistan are for the larger good

The Houthis are in a more difficult position than the Taleban because the former are an Iran-affiliated extremist militant group.



By Abdulrahman Al Rashed (Conflict Zones)

Published: Thu 8 Aug 2019, 10:32 PM

Last updated: Fri 9 Aug 2019, 12:35 AM

Wars are ugly. But sometimes they need to be fought for the sake of peace, justice, and the war in Yemen is one such, both for Yemenis and Saudis.
There wasn't a choice really for the Saudis. There are militants on the Saudi border, armed with ballistic missiles, and they are capable of reaching the kingdom's main cities and beyond the capital Riyadh.
War in Afghanistan is no different, too. The two wars, though different in historical roots and political motives, are similar in geography, circumstances and ongoing challenges.
Has the war in Yemen been going on for too long? Yes, but wars do not have a specific duration. The US entered Afghanistan in 2001 and has been fighting there ever since. Saudi Arabia has been in Yemen since 2015.
Taleban militants in Afghanistan are like the Houthis of Yemen. Both have a political agenda with an extremist religious discourse.
The battlefields in both countries are also similar, given their rugged mountainous terrain, and the tough lives and pervasive poverty among the people.
The alternative options for both wars are very limited, too. A withdrawal of troops by the US will allow the Taleban and other armed group to gobble up control over the entire country. Washington is rightly worried about such a scenario and fears that the situation in Afghanistan will go back to how it was before American troops arrived in the country.
These troops were deployed in the course of the US war against Al Qaeda and its ally the Taleban after the September 11 attacks. Still, the US - as a superpower in the western hemisphere, 11,000 km from Afghanistan - is capable of waging war on its enemy in Afghanistan from afar.
However, comparatively, withdrawal from Yemen could be dangerous. Saudi's exit could turn Yemen into a satellite state loyal to Iran, and since Yemen is on the kingdom's southern border, it would pose a direct threat.
A Saudi withdrawal may also lead to the destruction of what remains of Yemen, and drive the country into a wider tribal civil war, causing greater hardships for the Yemeni people.
US forces leading the coalition in Afghanistan have 16,000 troops, twice the number of Saudi forces in Yemen.
The cost of the war in Afghanistan is $45 billion, four times that of the conflict in Yemen. The war in Afghanistan has been ongoing for 18 years, compared to four years in Yemen.
The US has conducted rounds of direct and indirect talks with the Taleban, but has failed to find acceptable solutions. Attempts to resolve the conflict in Yemen have not fared well either, even though the door was and remains open to the Houthis to participate in a national government and have seats in parliament.
But the Houthis are in a more difficult position than the Taleban because the former are an Iran-affiliated extremist militant group, similar to the Lebanese Hezbollah, and Tehran is the real decision-maker. The war in Yemen is not an exceptional case. Like all conflicts, its dynamics may change for internal or external reasons.
- Asharq Al Awsat
Abdulrahman Al Rashed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat


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