In a press conference today, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki insisted it was inaccurate to call the departure of nearly 100 U.S. government personnel from their posts at the U.S. embassy in Yemen today an evacuation. Instead, she characterized the airlift as a “reduction in staff” and an “ordered departure.”
Earlier Tuesday, the United States flew all non-emergency U.S. government personnel from Sanaa, Yemen, to Germany in U.S. Air Force aircraft, and urged ”those U.S. citizens currently living in Yemen to depart immediately.” The British government has also evacuated its embassy staff.
The closure and staff reductions were in response to new information on the threats that closed 22 embassies this past weekend, Psaki said, but she didn’t provide further details. The embassy in Yemen was scheduled to remain closed from August 5 till August 10 (services and personnel presence would likely have been limited anyway because of the Muslim holiday this week). Psaki said the United States has not suspended its operations at the embassy.
Psaki repeatedly reminded journalists of a travel warning for American citizens traveling to Yemen that’s been in effect for over a decade, and emphasized there are no plans to evacuate U.S. citizens from the country.
The threat that caused U.S. embassy closures around the world this week apparently centered around an intercepted message from al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri to a deputy in Yemen. Also on Tuesday, American drone strikes killed four militants in Marib, east of Yemen’s capital city.