In mid-February, the U.S. government closed its embassies in Yemen and evacuated its personnel. Last month, Yemen’s airports all but shut down amidst heavy fighting, making it nearly impossible to leave the Gulf state. But critics say the Obama administration has effectively told American citizens to fend for themselves.
The U.S. State Department’s website states: “There are no plans for a U.S. government-coordinated evacuation of U.S. citizens at this time. We encourage all U.S. citizens to shelter in a secure location until they are able to depart safely.”
The U.S. refusal to evacuate its citizens comes despite its support for the Saudi-led bombing campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen. The United States has vowed to ramp up weapons deliveries to members of the Saudi-led coalition, and agreed to perform aerial refueling of bombers. Meanwhile, governments of several countries including Russia, India, and even Somalia have sent ships to rescue their citizens.
The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the high security threat level in Yemen due to terrorist activities and civil unrest. The Department urges U.S. citizens not to travel to Yemen. U.S. citizens still in Yemen should make plans to depart immediately. U.S. citizens seeking to depart Yemen are responsible for making their own travel arrangements.
Source: U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen – Jan. 27, 2015
QUESTION: About Yemen?
MS HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: So I know State Department talked to this a little bit last week, but we know that 41 U.S. citizens have filed a lawsuit against State Department and Defense Department for allegedly failing to evacuate them from Yemen. So I know that State Department said they advised people not to travel to Yemen and —
MS HARF: Since the mid-1990s we have.
QUESTION: Yes, and sent several travel alerts. But if they are trapped in Yemen, that this mean they have to find their own way get out of Yemen?
MS HARF: Well —
QUESTION: I mean, any new comments on that?
MS HARF: Just to put – not much new, just to put some numbers on this. Since January of 2014 alone, we have distributed 27 security messages and/or travel warnings, all of which urged U.S. citizens to defer travel to Yemen and urged those in Yemen to depart. So we are – as we’ve said, we’re not going to comment on pending litigation. We’re working with partners, having conversations with them about how people can get out.
And I just have a couple more minutes before we have a bilat upstairs, so let’s do some – just a few more.
QUESTION: But many people are very curious about why the most powerful military cannot evacuate its own people. I mean, is America —
MS HARF: Well, it’s not that we can’t. These are decisions we make based on a variety of factors, including the security situation —
QUESTION: So what kind of factors? Is United States abandoning —
MS HARF: I think I just said one. The security —
QUESTION: — abandoning American citizens in —
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