The collapse of Yemen into a failed state has trapped between 3,000 and 4,000 American citizens in the country, caught between al-Qaeda and Houthi Islamists and the military action against both from Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Almost until the moment that the Hadi government was put to flight, the White House has insisted that its counterterrorism efforts in Yemen had been a model of success. The final collapse appears to have caught the Obama administration so off-guard that it didn’t have time to organize an evacuation for Americans still left, and McClatchy’s John Zarocostas reports that no rescue plans will come in the immediate future, either (via Twitchy):
The Obama administration so far has declined to organize a rescue mission for the estimated 3,000 to 4,000 U.S. citizens in Yemen. U.S. officials have said they believe it is too dangerous for U.S. military assets to enter Yemeni waters and air space. They’ve also suggested that organizing Americans to meet at a single departure point would put them at risk of attack from al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula or other terrorist groups seeking American hostages.
That, however, has left Americans largely on their own to find a way out of the country. The U.S. Embassy in Sanaa has been closed for months, and the last American troops in the country were evacuated last month, a few days before the Saudi bombing campaign began.
On one hand, the State Department has warned Americans since at least February 11th to either stay out of Yemen or get out if they were already there. They reissued the warning on April 3rd, but by that time it was far too late. It’s unknown how many Americans responded to the alert on February 11th, but one has to imagine that some figured out that it was time to go quickly at that point.
The State Department defended itself with this point earlier in the week, saying that they’d been warning about security in Yemen for twenty years. That’s why, they argue, that they don’t feel the need to send the Navy to collect them:
On the other hand, the Obama administration isn’t exactly doing heavy lifting for those who did get stuck:
In a message posted on its website, the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa advises that an Indian naval vessel will be leaving Hodeidah for Djibouti and that it had been informed that Americans would be welcomed. But the embassy also noted that “unfortunately, we don’t have information on who to contact to board this ship.”
Ahem. Perhaps someone could take the trouble to find out? Zarocostas mentions that other nations seem more engaged in efforts to get Americans out:
A few dozen Americans have made it aboard U.N.-organized evacuation flights from Sanaa to Khartoum, Sudan, and others have made it out aboard Russian ships, according to news accounts.
The State Department could be concerned that publishing the details of the contacts could compromise security. That would be a very good reason to get US military assets in place to protect them.
This sounds familiar, doesn’t it? The collapse of Yemen was completely predictable, even while the Obama administration kept claiming their policy to be a success. When the collapse came, the military assets aren’t in place to protect Americans trapped in the maelstrom. Substitute Libya and Benghazi for Yemen and Sana’a, and it seems we haven’t learned a damned thing in three years.