The reform of Yemen’s armed forces, which were dominated largely by Saleh’s relatives and tribal allies, was a key goal of anti-government demonstrators, and as defections split the military into fractious, occasionally warring halves, an overhaul was transformed from a revolutionary demand into a near-necessity.
Since he took office, Hadi has initiated what some government officials have characterized as an unprecedented string of military reforms with the goal of turning the factionalized armed forces into a coherently organized military under a unified chain of command. He’s replaced a number of Saleh’s relatives and loyalists, though those changes have left some factions angry. Earlier this month, disgruntled pro-Saleh troops laid siege to the Ministry of Defense in an apparent response to a presidential decree that decreased the manpower of the Republican Guard, an elite force led by Saleh’s son, Ahmed Ali.
Hadi has vowed to hold the soldiers involved accountable, but for many here, the attack served as a reminder of the fraught nature of Yemen’s transitional process and the sway that the former president, who still resides in the center of the capital, and his allies retain. Saleh’s continued influence has tempered optimism about Hadi’s ability to bring about change.
Saleh and his allies “still have the ability to make major problems for Hadi,” said one opposition politician, speaking only on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. “The head has changed, but a lot of the body hasn’t.”