Eight congressmen with military ties signed a letter sent to the heads of the departments of State and Defense pointedly questioning responsibility for the hasty departure of a Marine embassy security guard detachment from Yemen’s capital this week, and reports that weapons and vehicles left behind were seized by Shiite rebels.
The State Department made the call to close the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa and evacuate personnel Feb. 10 amid security conditions that had been deteriorating since last fall, when Houthi rebels with Iran ties swept into the capital and plunged it into chaos and violence. Officials said the Marines guarding the embassy destroyed larger weapons according to protocol before departure and smashed their personal weapons with sledgehammers just before boarding flights out of the country. Reports from airport officials indicated that rebels seized 25 U.S. vehicles, some with weapons inside, as the embassy staff departed, though it’s not clear where the weapons originated.
Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., a retired Marine officer, wrote the Feb. 13 letter questioning the evacuation. The letter was signed by seven fellow Republican members of the House Armed Services Committee and included five detailed questions about the evacuation operation:
What assets were available to DoD personnel in lieu of the commercial aircraft reportedly used to depart Yemen
Why military assets were not used for transport out of country to avoid destroying equipment
Who gave final approval for the Marines to destroy their weapons, and whether DoD or State had operational control of the Marines during the evacuation
What advance planning had taken place for a potential evacuation, and whether DoD had approved the final evacuation plan
If it was standing policy for DoD personnel to leave weapons and equipment behind during evacuation of an embassy in a permissive environment