In the midst of the United States being in a heightened state of alert over terrorist threats by an al Qaeda affiliate that has resulted in scores of embassy closures throughout the Middle East, the U.S. has apparently went on the offensive by launching a pair of drone strikes against terrorists in Yemen.
News of the strikes were reported by CNN, who said security sources told them about the strikes but did not offer any details beyond their supposedly killing four terrorists affiliated with al Qaeda, none of whom were of the country’s most wanted list. CNN said they were also told by a Yemeni official that there have been over four drone strikes during the last 10 days.
Following the strikes, the U.S. State Department issued a warning urging all Americans currently in Yemen to immediately leave the country. The State Department cited terrorist activities and civil unrest in the country as the reason for the evacuation directive. In order to assist American citizens fleeing the country two U.S. military aircraft have landed in Yemen to assist with the evacuation.
“In response to a request from the U.S. State Department, early this morning the U.S. Air Force transported personnel out of Sana’a, Yemen, as part of a reduction in emergency personnel,” Pentagon press secretary George Little said in a statement. “The U.S. Department of Defense continues to have personnel on the ground in Yemen to support the U.S. State Department and monitor the security situation.”
While elected officials from both parties have supported the move to close the embassies and consulates, the move could also prove politically embarrassing for President Barack Obama who made the decimation of al Qaeda a key theme of his campaign this year, frequently claiming that the terrorist organization was on the run and no longer a serious threat to America.
Vice-President Joe Biden echoed a similar theme, saying “GM is alive, Bin Ladin is dead.”
On Monday, White House Press Secretary Joe Carney faced grilling over the apparent contradiction between the recent threat and what the president said last year. Carney attempted to parse the difference by saying that the core of al Qaeda has been decimated with many of its leaders killed, however the current group mentioned in the terrorist threat is not al Qaeda proper but an affiliate group called al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula and thus there is no contradiction.
Overseas American special forces units have been on alert for the past several days in order to attack al Qaeda in the event the individuals behind the recent threats can be identified.