In a remarkable reversal of al-Qaeda's fortunes, the Yemeni military backed by Saudi and Emirati ground and air support drove al-Qaeda out of the major southern cities over the weekend. The campaign began weeks ago with forces driving east from Aden into Lahj and Abyan, and was joined over the weekend by a massive campaign in the east that rooted al-Qaeda out of Mukulla, where it was firmly entrenched since April 2015. Yemeni forces marching south from the Saudi border prevented al-Qaeda from entering the interior wadi region of Hadramawt and secured key oil facilities and military bases.
Al-Qaeda clearly made a tactical decision to retreat in the face of an overwhelming show of force by the coalition, as it has done in the past only to reappear again, but the rapid retreat of al-Qaeda from the main southern cities is a major victory.
At the peace talks in Kuwait, after an initial delay of three days waiting for the Houthi-Saleh representatives to arrive, the talks have again stalled as little progress has been made. The Houthis and Ali Abdullah Saleh want an end to the air campaign while Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi wants to focus first on demilitarizing the Houthi militias and removing Houthi forces from the northern cities. On a positive note, the U.N. special representative to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, emphasized that the cease-fire does seem to be gradually taking hold, though fighting and air strikes continue in the Taiz region in particular. Representatives of the two sides remain in Kuwait so further on and off negotiations are expected this week. – Middle East Institute