The U.S. State Department has confirmed that the American Embassy in Yemen is closing because of the deteriorating security conditions there since the resignation of the country’s president last month.
A statement posted on Twitter said: "Due to uncertain security situation in Yemen, we have suspended our embassy operations; embassy staff have been relocated out of Sana’a." The State Department also urged "U.S. citizens to defer travel to Yemen and those U.S. citizens currently living in Yemen to depart."
Yemen has been mired in political turmoil for months. Last month, Houthi Shi'ite rebels took over the residence of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, prompting him and his Cabinet to resign. The rebels finalized their takeover of the country last Friday, announcing they have dissolved parliament and are establishing a new presidential council to run Yemeni affairs.
At the Pentagon, a spokesman Tuesday acknowledged that Yemen's political unrest is impacting U.S. counter-terrorism capabilities, but said the U.S. military is still training some Yemeni forces and still could carry out operations inside the country against al-Qaida militants.
"There's no question as a result of the political instability in Yemen that our counter-terrorism capabilities have been... affected," Rear Admiral John Kirby, the spokesman, told a news briefing.
Earlier this month, four former U.S. ambassadors (Ryan Crocker, Robert Ford, James Jeffrey and Ronald Neumann) said they oppose closing the embassy if that action was to be “solely on the basis of danger” in Sana'a, and that such a decision should not be made “primarily in Washington.”
The ambassadors wrote in a blog published by The Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper, that “the interaction with key players in Yemen can only be maintained by an ambassador,” who should be the last to leave the country. “The ambassador will have to calmly weigh risk against mission utility,” they added.
VOA's Sharon Behn contributed to this report.