Coastal security equipped through international support
“Yemen’s coastal guards look like a foreign-prepared unit,” Abdulrahman Al-Bukhaiti, an expert in Sea and Coastal Studies at the Supreme Military Academy, said.
He said the future of the Yemen’s coastal forces depends on American and European support.
There is a misunderstanding between the coastal security forces and the coastal military forces about each team’s responsibilities, he said.
Coastal Forces Manager Shuja Mahdi said Yemen’s coastal forces need international support for two reasons.
First, he said coastal forces have sophisticated preparation dating back to 2002, which need further support.
Second, international efforts intend to combat terrorist challenges and sea piracy in the Gulf of Aden.
Mahdi said the 2,200-meter Yemeni coast, stretching along the Arab and Red Seas need equipped, qualified forces. Yemen will not build such forces overnight, he said, and it could take ten years to have powerful coastal guards unless international support accelerates the improvement and growth of coastal personnel.
He also said it is of international interest for Yemen to possess fully equipped coastal guards to face piracy in the Al-Mandab Strait and the Gulf of Aden, as the two are departure points for international navigation.
The USS Cole, an American Navy destroyer, and a French oil tanker were attacked by Al-Qaeda in 2000 and in 2002, respectively, in the Gulf of Aden.
Mahdi said such attacks helped to better establish Yemeni coastal forces to foil such operations in the future.
On May 20, three American experts in coastal forces training survived a terrorist attack in Hodeida. One was injured.
Abdulrahman Al-Bukhaiti, teaching staff member at the Supreme Military Academy, said American military support is limited to ten boats that cannot deep-water dive.
Mahdi, however, considers the Yemen coastal forces to be good quality.
He said the Yemeni government received small military boats in 2004, medium boats in 2006 and large boats in 2010. He did not know exactly how many boats the Yemeni government has received to date.
Mahdi said delivery of American-funded supplies depends on the training level of the coastal forces. The U.S. cannot provide sophisticated boats to Yemeni personnel while they still lack necessary skills, he said.
Washington, D.C., he said, is eager to send training experts to Yemeni coasts so the coastal forces can use advanced military machines to combat terrorism and piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.
Radars but no boats
France and Italy have exhibited clear cooperation with aiding military coastal forces in Yemen.
In April 2010, France executed extensive military operations in the Gulf of Aden.
The training targeted port security, suspect ships, military and security technology for combating sea piracy and guarding the ships of international navigation.
According to Mahdi, Yemen received machines and professional training in navigation, geometry and port security from the French.
Similarly, the Italian government provided Yemen with surveillance training over the past few years, according to Mahdi.
He added there must be competent forces to patrol coasts.
Coastal surveillance includes radar machines with surveillance cameras located at ports in coastal areas and at the Gulf of Aden.
Early last year, Ali Rasa, the Coastal Authority’s head, said Japan informed Yemen that it will send support as well.
Rasa told state-run 26 September that Japanese backup would include large security boats for guards to patrol the coasts in the regional waters.
However, Mahdi said the Yemeni coastal forces have yet to receive the Japanese assistance.
Complete support and shared coast
A source in the Al-Hodeida governorate said there is an American project in effect intending to distribute the responsibility of supporting Yemen’s coastal personnel to many western countries.
According to the source, Italy and Britain will assist with the advancement of military coastal forces. The United Arab Emirates will be in charge of funding the project.
The source said an Italian project aimed at backing the coastal forces with specialized boats was in place but has since been halted. Consequently, Washington decided to execute the project with British cooperation to keep control of the western part of the Arab Sea. Italy will be in charge of the Red Sea.
The source said the U.S. is concerned because of the poor coastal infrastructure along the eastern coast of Aden and Al-Mukkla, which can be a gateway for smuggling militants and weapons to Yemen, further destabilizing the region.