Less than 24 hours after ISIS-affiliates launched suicide attacks at two Zaydi Shiite mosques in Sana, Yemen, killing more than 130 people, the United States announced it would withdraw its remaining ground forces in the country. The United States closed its embassy in January after Houthi rebels deposed the country’s president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. Despite closure of its embassy and the formal withdrawal of diplomatic personnel from the country, the United States continued to maintain a special operations force operating on the ground in Yemen, attempting to counter what it saw as the growing influence of al Qaeda and ISIS affiliates.
Commentators now worry that the withdrawal of US Special Forces from the country could undermine counter-terror operations in the region and embolden al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQIP).
What do you think? What effect, if any, will the withdrawal of US Special Forces from Yemen have on the region? Will AQIP seek to destabilize the Houthi regime? Will it expand its operations beyond Yemen and target US and Western assets elsewhere? Should the US have withdrawn its forces? Why?
Houti rebels celebrate advances in Sanaa, Yemen.
The government of Yemen fell yesterday after Houthi rebels captured the Presidential compound and much of the capital, Sanaa. President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and his entire cabinet tendered their resignations and most foreigners and embassy personnel fled the country. Mansour had been a key US ally in anti-terror operations in the region, particularly in operations targeting al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the al Qaeda branch widely recognized as one of the most active in the world. AQAP had claimed responsibility for the attacks against the satirical French journal Charlie Hebdo and had conducted dozens of operations in Yemen.
In a news briefing yesterday, the White House asserted the coup would make no difference in US operations and would continue anti-terror operations in Yemen. The Houti have regularly spoken out against any foreign intervention in Yemen, and US drone strikes in the country have been widely unpopular. The United States suspended drone operation in Yemen in December but remains ready to launch operations using drones and/or special forces to target al Qaeda forces in the region.
What do you think? How will the change in government in Yemen affect US anti-terror operations in the region? Should the United States seek to work with the Houti rebel groups in Yemen? Should it respect the request of the Yemeni government to refrain from intervening in the country? Why?