Smart power: US evacuating 100 commandos from Yemen air base after AQ captures nearby town

Remember when the Obama administration cited Yemen as a success story for its counterterrorism strategy? Let’s say that the situation has evolved since Josh Earnest bragged about the outcome of Barack Obama’s Arab Spring strategy of bolstering the local government they wanted after chasing out the previous regime. Shi’ite Houthi terrorists have returned the favor by chasing the US out of its embassy in Sana’a, and now Sunni al-Qaeda terrorists have chased out 100 Special Ops forces from a Yemeni base after seizing a nearby town:


A day after suicide bombers attacked a pair of mosques in the Yemeni capital, the U.S. military decided to pull the remainder of its troops out of the rapidly fragmenting nation, CBS News confirmed Saturday.

CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports that the withdrawal of about 100 special operations troops would be completed within hours.

Martin reports that no direct threat prompted the decision. Instead, it was the overall deterioration of the country.

NBC hears something a little different from its sources:

The U.S. commandos, including Green Berets and Navy Seals, have been training Yemeni military forces in counterterrorism operations, but the Americans have not been involved in direct ground combat maneuvers against militants.

The move comes as al Qaeda fighters captured the capital of a southern Yemen province late Friday, leading to the deaths of about 20 soldiers, Reuters reported. Earlier, four suicide bombers hit a pair of crowded mosques in the capital of Sanaa, killing at least 137 people and injuring more than 300 others, officials said.

The US forces didn’t directly engage against AQ, but they ran the drone programs that the US uses to target its leaders:

The U.S. troops, including Special Forces commandos, were leaving the al-Annad air base near the southern city of al-Houta, Yemeni military and security officials said. Speaking on condition of anonymity as they weren’t authorized to discuss troop movements, the officials did not say whether the troops had left the country. …

The al-Annad base is where American and European military advisers help Yemen battle the country’s local al-Qaida branch through drone strikes and logistical support.

Al-Qaida’s local branch is considered by Washington to be the group’s most dangerous offshoot. The U.S. has carried out a series of drone strikes in Yemen targeting suspected militants. Al-Qaida militants took al-Houta on Friday. Their offensive comes as Shiite rebels hold the capital and nine of Yemen’s 21 provinces.


The deposed president backed by the Obama administration and Saudi Arabia, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, has emerged in Aden. Hadi declared the port city in the west to be the temporary capital of Yemen, and told Yemenis that the Houthis were agents of Iran. With Hadi in the mix — although without any indications of military strength — that makes three separate groups vying for supremacy in a country that had been at least manageable until Obama and the Saudis decided to push out Saleh, who’s now backing the Houthis.

It’s a mess now, another failed state directly across the Gulf of Aden from Somalia, the White House’s other supposed success story for its counterterrorism efforts. The death toll on the four bombings on Friday claimed by ISIS has risen to 142. AFP has footage from one of the mosques in Sana’a that suicide bombers targeted:

With AQ seizing territory in Yemen, it’s clear that Obama was in error when he declared in 2012 that he had them “on the run.” Today, it’s difficult to deny that the appearance is that the US is on the run instead.

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