Sunday, 4 February 2018
Aden Insurgency: The Savage War in Yemen 1962-1967 - Jonathon Walker
Author: Jonathon Walker
Publisher: Pen and Sword
Photos/ Maps: 17/10
Anyone following the news these days will be aware of the ongoing civil/proxy war taking place in Yemen. Regional forces as well as rebel and government elements are locked in a ferocious war where no action, however barbaric by modern standards, appears off-limits. Unfortunately, this is not a new or unique situation for this region of the world as Walker so aptly discusses in his book.
Aden was originally a strategically critical naval station that provided a stop off point midway between the far flung Eastern and Western elements of the British Empire. The region outside of the immediate area of this port was viewed as a semi-autonomous area that was exemplified by brutal tribal conflicts and regional proxy engagements between Egyptian, British and Saudi forces or their client forces.
Walker provides an outstanding baseline analysis of the political and tribal intrigue that permeated the area. Ferociously independent tribes and a brutal, austere environment provided the back drop for ongoing British operations as they attempted to prevent the expansion of Egyptian influence into the region. Walker expertly and concisely navigates the international and political intrigue that typified this conflict. He also provides an adroit analysis of the strain placed upon the British forces as they attempted to maintain stability in newly independent colonies while learning to deal with the unique nature of warfare in the Aden/Yemen region.
Further complicating the issue was the proxy war being assisted by the British between the rebels who had taken control of Yemen (assisted by the Egyptians) and the Yemeni Royalist forces (supported by the British). While on the one hand the British were overtly engaged in operations within the Aden Protectorate, they were also clandestinely working with the Royalists; the complexity of this conflict was truly stunning and could have served as an excellent learning tool for the more recent Afghan conflict.
Drawing upon interviews with the major players in the years following the conflict, the author is able to draw out opinions and observations that uniformed or government service would have prevented. One of the more prevalent of these was the role British domestic politics played in announcing a timeline for British withdrawal. This changed the entire character of the Aden insurgency as groups originally aligned with the British now were forced to look out for their own best interests knowing what fate awaited them with the departure of their erstwhile allies. Another key lesson to be derived from the conflict.
While the gravity and violence of this war has generally been overshadowed by the US engagement in Vietnam, it nevertheless stands as an outstanding school room for future operations within the region. The complex social and political dynamic characterizing Aden serves as both a warning and a lesson for non-regional powers attempting to subdue or influence these peoples. Walker has done a good job at contextualizing the ferocity and complexity of this fight.