Yezid Sayigh explored the challenges ahead for Yemen’s security sector and possible approaches to military reconstruction in Yemen. Carnegie’s Farea Al-Muslimi moderated the discussion. 


  • Building a National Army: Assuming there is an end to the current armed conflict, rebuilding a single Yemeni national army will pose a major challenge, warned Sayigh. The current army is politicized and factionalized. Ultimately, he concluded, in a politically and socially divided society, any negotiation on rebuilding the national army is essentially about the nature of the state itself and its relations with larger society.
  • Opportunities Missed: There were two important opportunities after the Arab Spring for achieving military restructuring and security sector reform in Yemen, said Sayigh. First, in the immediate aftermath of the resignation of President Saleh, there was a basic level of agreement and understanding to place military restructuring at the heart of the formal peace initiative. The second opportunity came with the national dialogue conference and its final conclusion, which touched on military and security sector reform. 


  • Inclusiveness and Transparency: In order to build trust and legitimacy, everything related to military reconstructing and security sector reform should be involve extensive consultation and transparency with the Yemeni society, media, and parliament, argued Sayigh.
  • A Genuine Army: The army must transition into a professional institution with a clear mandate, Sayigh said. He argued that privileging professional development and investing in resources such as training and building skills based on the identification of real threats, as well as training a new generation of junior officers and creating an incentive structure that makes loyalty to the institution more rewarding than loyalty to a political faction or tribal identity, are critical.
  • Balanced Civilian-Military Relationship: There must be a proper balanced relationship between civilian, political, and preferably democratically elected authorities on one side, and military and security institutions on the other. Sayigh said that this type of balance is critical to democratic governance, economic growth, stability, and security.