The United Arab Emirates(UAE) secretly sent hundreds of mercenaries from Colombia to Yemen to battle against the Houthi rebels who still control much territory in the east and north of the country, including the capital Sanaa.
The program was originally run by a private company with connections to Erik Prince the founder of Blackwater. Blackwater was involved in a number of incidents in Iraq that outraged the Iraqi government. The UAE says the program is now run by the UAE military. Another 450 Latin American troops including fighters from Panama, Salvador, and Chile are in addition to the Saudis, UAE troops and locals loyal to the government of Mansour Hadi, all fighting against the rebel Houthis. The UAE may worry about losses to its own troops causing difficulties at home. In September one strike by the Houthis killed 45 troops, almost all from the UAE.Sean McFate, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council:The Colombian recruits get salaries from $2,000 to $3,000 a month. In Colombia they would make about $400 a month. If deployed to Yemen they get a bonus of $1,000 more a week, according to an anonymous former senior Colombian military officer who is involved in the project. The project began five years ago in 2010. The exodus of some of Colombia's best trained soldiers is causing some trouble in the fight against drugs in Colombia. Jaime Ruiz, the president of Colombia's Association of Retired Armed Forces Officials said: “These great offers, with good salaries and insurance, got the attention of our best soldiers.” Often money earned is sent to Colombia to support families of the troops.There may be peace talks in the near future. Past efforts at peace have failed as the UN and the Hadi government in effect demand the Houthi withdraw from all the areas they have won and lay down their arms. The Saudi-led coalition seems bent on subjecting the Houthis to a humiliating defeat if they can.Human Rights Watch(HRW) and other human rights groups have been critical of the Saudi-led bombing campaign. HRW claims at least 10 air strikes broke the laws of war killing civilians. Saudi Arabia simply denies such reports. The recent HRW report claims the strikes killed at least 309 civilians and wounded at least 414. They noted that it was an obligation of Saudi Arabia's allies to investigate possible war crimes The report notes:The UN claims about 5,700 people have been killed in the fighting since the Saudi-led bombing campaign began last March. More than 2,600 civilians are among those killed with about two-thirds of the civilian casualties caused by air strikes.
“Mercenaries are an attractive option for rich countries who wish to wage war yet whose citizens may not want to fight.The private military industry is global now.”He said the U.S. had legitimized the practice by relying heavily on contractors in iraq and Afghanistan. There are now 1,800 Latin American soldiers training at a military base in the UAE. Saudi Arabia has already sent hundreds of Sudanese soldiers to Yemen. A recent UN report also claimed that there are 400 Eritrean troops in Yemen. If this is true it could violate a UN resolution restricting Eritrean military activities.
"Human Rights Watch found either no evident military target or that the attack failed to distinguish civilians from military objectives. Human Rights Watch is unaware of any investigations by Saudi Arabia or other coalition members in these or other reported cases."The attacks were on residential houses, market places, a factory, and a civilian prison. In the past, the Saudis also hit a Doctors Without Borders hospital and used cluster bombs in attacks in the north. Many of the weapons including cluster bombs are provided by the United States.