Why are we still in Yemen?

The President, way back about… 100 days ago.

“This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.”

I’ve clearly been a bit befuddled over that whole “successful” definition for years now, but we can quibble over semantics later. As of this morning, the success includes the President of Yemen being essentially locked in his house and, just by the way, the rebels have taken over a ballistic missile base which overlooks the capital.

Rebels in Yemen seized the country’s largest missile base on a hilltop above the capital Sanaa on Wednesday, and posted guards outside the president’s home.

It came after the Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, shelled U.S.-backed President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s neighborhood Tuesday and swept into the presidential palace and looted its weapons depots. The president remained inside his house.

The military base, which houses ballistic missiles, overlooks the city, which the rebels captured in September. The rebels issued fresh demands Wednesday, asking for the post of vice president and several key government offices.

The entire nation of Yemen is currently a hot mess at best and a stronghold of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula at worst. But just as a reminder for those playing along at home, we still have an embassy there with American personnel on the ground. Now, to be fair to both sides of the debate, it’s a very important part of the world in terms of combating the terrorist threat. If we can safely have a presence there and a way to quickly move not only intelligence, but special forces in and out on short notice, this is a laudable goal. Further, the President seems to have learned something from the lessons of the past and has alertly moved ships into the area in preparation for a possible hasty retreat. Well done. But there comes a time when you cut your losses and get out of Dodge before the entire situation slips into a maelstrom.

And if the President needs any more of a leading indicator, even Diane Feinstein is on board with pulling the plug for a while.

The U.S. government should immediately close and evacuate the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a, Yemen, according to Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic vice-chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

I asked her today whether the embassy, which remains open despite raging violence throughout the Yemeni capital, should be closed. She responded: “Based on what I know so far, yes.”

“I’m very concerned about our embassy there, who is still there, who isn’t still there, and what the plans are,” Feinstein added.

I get the point that once you get out it becomes even more difficult to go back in and set things up from scratch. I also sympathize with those who express concerns that it makes America “look bad” to be running away from these rebels. But the fact is that we don’t have a strong military presence in Yemen. We have a diplomatic outpost and some limited Special Forces capabilities. We’re not ready to take on an army. We either need to move in there in force to secure a more defensible base of operations (unlikely) or get our people out while we can still do so.

As I said on Twitter yesterday, if one of those Americans dies as this situation continues to go to the last ditch, there’s going to be hell to pay and the President is the only one who can be held accountable. Nobody can say he hasn’t had sufficient warning.