WASHINGTON — Obama’s State Department wants to keep the U.S. Embassy in Yemen’s capital open for as long as possible, but the Pentagon is pushing for an evacuation before the current situation worsens.
CNN made that revelation on Tuesday citing an unnamed U.S. official with direct knowledge of the evacuation planning.
“The military is aware the State Department wants to keep the embassy open as long as possible, the official said, noting that it’s a valuable tool to monitor Al Qaeda in Yemen,” revealed CNN. “But behind the scenes the Pentagon is pressing the point that if an evacuation becomes necessary they want to do it before the chaos in Sanaa descends into a ‘non permissive environment,’ akin to combat.”
An unnamed defense official told NBC News that the embassy is “not at risk,” adding that the Shiite Muslim Houthi fighters sympathetic to Iran “do not pose a risk to Americans.”
Iran is considered a major state sponsor of terrorism by the United States.
CNN reported on Wednesday that al-Qaeda, a Sunni jihadist group, is expected to benefit from the Houthi takeover of “government buildings, the main airport and a share of power” in Sanaa.
Al-Qaeda’s Yemeni branch is considered a “significant threat” by the United States.
The decision to evacuate State personnel and other Americans in Yemen ultimately lies within the State Department.
Unnamed defense officials “stressed that an evacuation would be ordered if Americans come under serious threat,” noted NBC News.
Roughly 100 U.S. Marines are providing security at the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa.
CNN reported that the Pentagon is prepared to evacuate Americans if necessary.
Two U.S. Navy warships, the USS Iwo Jima and the USS Fort McHenry, were reportedly moved into the Red Sea late on Monday as the Pentagon prepared to evacuate Americans from Yemen if asked to do so by the State Department.
The two Navy amphibious ships were moved “because they will be in the best position if asked,” by the State Department to remove Americans from the embassy, the U.S. official told CNN.
According to the official, the evacuation of “several hundred Americans” from the embassy would be complex and could take several days to carry out.
“Nobody should think this would be easy,” the official told CNN.
A U.S. Embassy vehicle was fired upon on Tuesday in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa where U.S.-backed government security forces are clashing with Houthi rebels.
That same day, Houthi fighters reportedly stormed the presidential palace in Sanaa.
Yemeni security forces mounted a brief resistance before relinquishing control of the palace. Yemeni President Abdu Rabu Mansour is reportedly being held captive by the Houthi rebels.