A Saudi war fought with Eritrean troops?

By: Mohammad Abu Fares
Analysis: Saudi Arabia has been cosying up to Eritrea, leading to reports the African nation will join Senegal in offering troops for the war in Yemen, says Mohammad Abu Fares.
Eritrea could be the second non-Arab African nation to contribute troops to the Saudi-led alliance against Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Issayas Afewerki
Eritrea’s president Isaias Afwerki visited Riyadh last week to meet King Salman and other leading Saudi officials. This has led many to believe that Eritrea could follow Senegal’s lead – the West African nation announced earlier this week that it would send 2,100 soldiers to join the Saudi alliance.
Sources in Asmara revealed to al-Araby al-Jadeed that talks between Eritrean and Saudi officials has brought them to a common understandings on a number of strategic and security related issues.
Sources expect an announcement on military cooperation between the two states, which would allow the alliance to use Eritrean airspace and seas.
It is also being said that Saudi is hoping to capitalise on the capabilities of the Eritrean armed forces.
Strategically important
Eritrea occupies an important geographically location on the Horn of Africa.
It lies just over the water from Yemen, looking over one of the most strategically important sea corridors in the world – where the Red Sea leads to the Suez Canal.
Eritrea would be an obvious launchpad for amphibious attacks if Saudi Arabia wanted to being a ground war.
Saudi Arabia has built good relations with three other Red Sea states share maritime borders with Yemen – Djibouti, Somalia and Ethiopia. Eritrea was the fourth piece in the jigsaw and has hosted foreign troops before.
Israel and Iran have military bases in Eritrea, but as the tide turns against the Tehran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen, Asmara appears to be cutting ties with these countries.
“Afwerki’s controversial relations have continued to be a source of angst for Saudi Arabia, which is just a strip of sea away from Eritrea,” said one Arab diplomat who wanted to remain anonymous.
“Saudi Arabia worries when Eritrean-Israeli relations progressed, which led to… the presence of Israeli bases in Dahlak and other Eritrean islands just off the Saudi coast. Relations between the two countries hit their lowest level.”
Eritrea was said to be, secretly at least, on the side of ally Iran and the Houthis during the Saudi-led assault on Yemen.
However, observers believe that Afwerki’s visit to Riyadh has turned the tables and that Eritrea might be sending signals to the US that it is eager to be friends.
Influential groups in Eritrea have been suspected of supporting Somalia’s al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab.
Some African diplomats were not surprised by the turnaround. Gulf nations were said to have been heavily involved in negotiations with African countries allied to Asmara in the build up to the visit.
Qatar has been effective in leading talks between Eritrea and some of its hostile neighbours.
The diplomats believe that the talks with Saudi Arabia is an attempt by Asmara to break its international isolation.
This has been enforced through UN resolution 1907, which imposed sanctions on Eritrea over its role in Somalia and refusal to pull its troops out of Djibouti.
With 200,000 soldiers and 12,000 naval personnel, and commanders experienced from Eritrea’s war with Ethiopia, the country could provide the backbone of a coalition invasion force.
The fact that they are ruled by an absolute dictator and dissent in the country has been crushed, then Eritrea would not be faced with a repeat of the Pakistani parliament’s refusal to engage in Saudi’s war in Yemen.
This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.


  1. If this news is to be true, I am ashamed of the Eritrean presidents’ move to send soldiers to die for a cause that never ceases to flareup. What a shame. We are tired of killing each other and now we are going to fight on behalf of an Oil rich kingdom. Is this suppose to be progress? I see no reason for an Eritrean blood to be shed in Yemen. If the the Kingdom is promising the sky to Ato Isaias they will never deliver it. Instead, Eritrea will be on the opposite side of Iran, and other countries who intern may want to destabilize it for their cause. Oh well, before it was the white world that was whipping us to kill each other, now the Arabs are asking us to die for them. Who values the life of the black? Not their government, not the white world, not the Arabs. No one does. When will be the day we will stand united and say get lost to those who want us to kill on their behalf and kill our own brothers and sisters for trivial things. Will there be a day?

  2. I feel sorry for poor Eritrean troops.They have to go and fight for rich country against a poor country just for money, that will be for Isaias and his generals. Even if they pay you a lot of money it is not your business to go there.

  3. What? I don’t believe that if it’s true Esayas is crazy why why? For arebs no way the can kill each other non of our business! !!!

  4. Tesfa I see your concern but rest assured stop believing Tom, Dick Harry and now al-Mohamed or what ever name they use, they are there to confuse you, if you are Eritrean, stop worrying just relax if you are Ethiopian, Eritrean hater, you need to wake up and be alert not dormant!!!

  5. Wedi nakfa,
    Think of this way what you just said. Does it matter whether I am Eritrean or Ethiopian? When are you going to be free of your blind nationalism? The fact is, had you been in Eritrea the chance of giving a response to this article is nil. There is nothing to be proud of being an Eritrean or Ethiopian. If there is anything, please show me. But do not tell about your 30yrs of fighting killing your brothers and sisters. That was no freedom fight then and there is no freedom in Eritrea or Ethiopia now. If you can’t see my point in my previous posting you ought to go back to Nakfa and start over. Maybe you have forgotten something there that will bring you back to senses. I do not care if you are Eritrean or Ethiopian, I see humanity as one. Please do not reply to this. The site is not fit for a forum discussion. Go out pick up a six pack and reminisce your glory days.No glory then, no glory now. That is what we call Vanity!

  6. I don’t see any wrong doing by sending troops to Yemen,Essayas does not do this for free he gets a good sum of money which is crucial for Eritrea moreover, the troops get a good experience on the actual warfront for future would be war to liberate it’s territory.

  7. I think one has to see what Eritrea is getting out of Saudi deal, Esayas knows how to get a good chunk of money from the deal moreover, fighting in Yemen gives a good experience to the Army and ready them for the would be war to reclaim our territory.

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