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Sudan Drawing Down Troops in Yemen in Recent Months

FILE - Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, the deputy head of the military council sits on his vehicle surrounded by soldiers from the Rapid Support Forces, RSF, unit during a military-backed tribal rally, in the East Nile province, Sudan, June 22, 2019.

Sudan has recently drawn down its forces taking part in a Saudi-led coalition at war with Iran-aligned rebels in Yemen, two senior Sudanese officials said Wednesday.

They declined to disclose how many troops have left Yemen, but say “several thousand troops,” mainly from the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, have returned over the past two months.

The officials stressed that Sudan isn’t quitting the Saudi-led coalition. The coalition was formed in 2015 to stem the advance of the rebels known as Houthis after they took over Yemen’s capital and the northern provinces in 2014, pushing out the internationally recognized government.

The officials say Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, head of the RSF, agreed with Saudi Arabia that he would not replace returned forces as fighting on the ground has dwindled in recent months. They said a “few thousand troops” remain for training Yemeni government forces.

In past years Dagalo, who is also member of Sudan’s joint military-civilian Sovereign Council that will govern Sudan for just over a three-year transition, mobilized thousands of RSF troops to fight in Yemen on behalf of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the backbone of the coalition.

The RSF grew out of the notorious Janjaweed militias used by former autocratic President Omar al-Bashir in the Darfur conflict in the early 2000s.

The officials said the Sudanese troops reached over 40,000 at the peak of Yemen’s war in 2016-2017.

Yemeni military officials said Sudanese troops had centered mainly in Yemen’s border areas with Saudi Arabia to repel any attacks by Houthis on the Kingdom.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to brief the media.

A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition did not answer calls seeking comment.

In July, the UAE said it pulled out several thousand troops in Yemen, describing the move as a “strategic redeployment.” Qatar and Morocco also pulled forces from Yemen in recent years amid a rift with Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi-led coalition has been at war in Yemen since 2015 to support the country’s internationally-backed government.

The war, sparked by the Houthis’ takeover of the capital in 2014, has claimed tens of thousands of lives, thrust millions to the brink of famine and spawned the world’s most devastating humanitarian crisis. Now it has ground into a long stalemate.