All remaining U.S. government personnel withdrew from Yemen over the weekend as fighting erupted near the last haven for American special forces there and an Iran-backed militia took control of key locations in the country's third-largest city.
About 100 American special operations troops evacuated Al Anad airbase in the southern part of Yemen on Saturday, as
“Due to the deteriorating security situation in Yemen, the U.S. government has temporarily relocated its remaining personnel out of Yemen,”
The U.S. departure from Yemen as it further descends into chaos is likely to hobble the American counterterrorism campaign against two potent extremist groups, the
The U.S. plans to continue to fly armed drones over Yemen and strike at leaders of cells plotting to attack Western targets, officials said. But without Americans on the ground and no friendly local intelligence service to turn to for help, the U.S. will have much less information about the location of militant leaders.
But the danger of remaining in Yemen proved too great over the weekend. Backed by Iran as well as ousted president
The Shiite-led Houthis, whose leaders have received training and weapons from Iran, now control Sana and nine of the country's 21 provinces.
The rebels' newest push further endangers the rule of current President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, a close counterterrorism ally of the United States and still recognized by the White House as the sole legitimate authority in the country.
Hadi, who fled Sana last month for the southern city of Aden, gave a defiant televised speech Saturday accusing Iran of orchestrating a coup against him and appealing to the United Nations for "urgent intervention."
The speech inflamed rebel leaders already incensed by the gruesome suicide bombings at Shiite mosques in Sana on Friday that killed at least 137 men, women and children.
Islamic State leaders announced responsibility for the mosque attacks, the first claim of a major attack in Yemen by the group. The Islamic State also claimed to be behind the attacks that killed 20 foreign tourists and a policeman in Tunisia on Wednesday.
"This is something that clearly is not just restricted to Iraq and Syria," Brennan said on "Fox News Sunday." "So we cannot relent."
U.S. intelligence officials are also concerned that the turmoil gives Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula "breathing room" to plot attacks against the U.S. Dozens of members of the group have been killed in a campaign of U.S. drone strikes in the country over the past several years.
The group said it planned the deadly shootings in January at the Paris offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. In 2010, bombmakers for the group hid explosives inside printer cartridges shipped to the U.S. and concealed a bomb inside the underwear of an operative who boarded a Detroit-bound jetliner on Christmas Day 2009. Both times, the bombs were discovered before they detonated.
"We are withdrawing completely," McCaul said, speaking on ABC's "This Week." "We will have no intelligence footprint or capabilities to monitor what groups like AQAP, ISIS and the Shia militants are doing in the region," McCaul said, using an alternative acronym for Islamic State.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.