The Obama administration has quietly frozen U.S. Embassy operation in “volatile” Yemen, once hailed as a success story in the war on terror, despite insistence that a U.S. footprint needed to remain in the country.
In January, the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa urged U.S. citizens to leave Yemen “immediately” as it will be unable to provide regular consular services.
“Due to ongoing security concerns, the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa is unable to provide routine consular services but remains open and operational and is providing emergency services. We are continuously analyzing the security conditions and will resume regular consular operations as soon as possible,” read the emergency message to U.S. citizens.
On Sunday, the Embassy told U.S. citizens that “due to ongoing security concerns in Yemen, U.S. Embassy Sanaa has suspended all consular services until further notice.”
“For now, we ask U.S. citizens in need of emergency assistance to contact a U.S. embassy or consulate in a neighboring country… The U.S. State Department warns U.S. citizens of the high security threat level in Yemen due to terrorist activities and civil unrest. The Department urges U.S. citizens not to travel to Yemen. U.S. citizens still in Yemen should make plans to depart immediately.”
The White House insisted after the January Shiite Iran-backed Houthi rebellion that it didn’t want to “change the posture” of the U.S. in Yemen, despite protests from lawmakers who wanted to see U.S. personnel pulled out around the time of the State of the Union address.
Press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters today that they have “indicated for a number of weeks now that we have been closely monitoring the security situation on the ground in Sanaa and throughout Yemen, with an eye toward taking the necessary steps to protect the safety and security of American personnel who are in Yemen.”
He referred reporters to the State Department for more questions about the facility, but faced questions about holding Yemen up as a model of a successful anti-terrorism policy.
“The president has indicated that the counterterrorism strategy that we have successfully pursued in Yemen is consistent with the kind of strategy that we are pursuing against ISIL. And the reason for that is that it’s consistent with our broader national security interests,” Earnest said.
State Department press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed today that they “have been reducing staff in Yemen over the past few weeks, as all of you know, given the volatile political and security situation.”
“We have nothing further to announce over and above what we have previously announced,” she said. “Our focus, of course, remains on what’s in the best interests — the safety and security of our staff.”
Psaki would not confirm multiple reports that the U.S. Embassy will be locked up tomorrow and the U.S. ambassador would fly out of the country.
“I just provided all the information I can at this point in time,” she said. “…Obviously, the safety and security of our personnel is one of our top priorities as well as, of course, our national security interest. And we take steps in order to make sure we do everything we can protect that.”
“…We don’t outline specifics publicly for good reason, and I think you all understand why.”