Brig. Gen. Faisal Al-Jumai, Yemen National Representative to USCENTCOM
Photos by AFP/GETTY IMAGES
Lt. Gen. Sagheer Hammoud bin Aziz stands at the top of the Yemeni Army as chief of the General Staff and commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, crowning a military career that began in high school in 1983, when he embarked upon a rich journey between military and civilian life in Amran governorate in the north of the Republic of Yemen.
Lt. Gen. bin Aziz descends from the Sufyan tribe, one of the main pillars of the Bakil tribe in Yemen. He was born in 1967, and his father was a sheikh of one of the largest subclans of the Harf Sufyan tribe, and one of the main sheikhs of the Bakil tribe.
When Sagheer bin Aziz moved to the capital Sanaa to study in high school because of the lack of suitable schools in his hometown, he joined the Yemeni Army in 1983 and was promoted to second lieutenant in 1990. He took part in the battle for Yemeni unity a few years later.
In 1997, he ran for election to become a member of the Yemeni Parliament for the ruling General People’s Congress Party and won his constituency of Harf Sufyan. He ran for the office a second time in 2003 and was reelected to parliament. During that period, Sagheer bin Aziz would leave the parliamentary chambers at the end of the day to go to school in Sanaa to learn English.
As a Soldier, Sagheer bin Aziz took charge of several missions and moved up the military ladder. He commanded several military formations and was deputy chief instructor at Tariq bin Ziyad Camp for the Yemeni Republican Guard.
He was then appointed head of Tariq camp operations.
The most important shift in Lt. Gen. bin Aziz’s life occurred in 2008, when the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels decided to expand their war against the Yemen state from Sa’ada toward the Harf Sufyan district of Amran governorate. There, bin Aziz confronted them as a parliamentarian, tribal sheikh, and Yemeni Army officer, and he mobilized the tribes alongside the state to face the Houthis. He and his tribesmen fought a fierce battle against the rebels, and the Houthis blew up his home, seized his property, and martyred and wounded many of his friends and tribal members.
These experiences forged Lt. Gen. bin Aziz into one of the Houthis’ most notable foes. His presence as head of the Armed Forces, fighting the battle once again after the Houthi coup and occupation of the Yemeni capital in 2014, is highly symbolic.
In 2016, he was appointed deputy chief of the General Staff for Training Affairs and promoted to the rank of major general. A year later, he obtained a master’s degree in military science from our ally, the Republic of Sudan, and in 2018 earned a fellowship degree in strategic studies from the National Defense College at Nimeiri Higher Military Academy in Sudan.
He resumed his direct role in Yemeni national affairs following completion of the United Nations-backed Stockholm Agreement in Hodeida governorate on the Red Sea, when he was appointed head of the government team to implement the agreement and observe the redeployment process.
In mid-2019, Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi appointed then-Maj. Gen. bin Aziz as commander of Operations. He moved to Marib governorate, site of the temporary Yemeni Army headquarters and engaged in fighting in coordination with the Saudi-led Coalition to Support Legitimacy in Yemen.
In February 2020, President Hadi named Maj. Gen. bin Aziz Chief of the General Staff and promoted him to lieutenant general, a rank achieved by only a few Yemeni generals in the nation’s history. From that time, he has fought on the battlefields, joining his Soldiers on the front lines against the Iranian-backed Houthi militia. These battles have been centered on the strategic Marib governorate over the past two years.
Lt. Gen. bin Aziz resides at the advanced military barracks and garrison headquarters to lead the fight, and the Houthi militia stalks him with missiles and drones made by Iranian experts who run such operations for the Houthis. In May 2020, Lt. Gen. bin Aziz’s son was martyred by a Houthi ballistic missile, an attack that also killed seven of the general’s comrades.
The Houthis also targeted the general’s home north of Marib city with three rockets and destroyed it in October 2021, as well as targeting the military headquarters he sometimes frequents. A number of his relatives and comrades have been killed in battle or targeted for death. However, all these losses have only increased the commander’s determination and courage on the battlefield.
Everyone who knows Lt. Gen. bin Aziz unanimously vouches for the wisdom of the man and recognizes the old-fashioned values that characterize him, values inherited from his social and tribal upbringing. Combined with his military training, the general’s values molded his personality into a unique combination of modest leader and hardened warrior.
Lt. Gen. bin Aziz’s reassuring presence on the front lines with his Soldiers remains an inspiration for those fighting for a just Yemeni peace.