Posted: 7:01 pm EDT
“My son served in the army for four years. In Iraq. He served because we love our country. As we should. Now look at us?”
Muna is from Buffalo in upstate New York. Her family is among the dozens of Americans caught in the crossfire of warring parties in Yemen. And although many other countries evacuated their citizens, India most notably ferrying out around 5,000, the United States has said it is too dangerous for them to directly evacuate American nationals.
For Muna, her ordeal ended at Djibouti Port where Christina Higgins, the U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission, was among the embassy staff waiting to meet them. I asked Higgins about the sense of abandonment Muna and many of the other Americans trapped in Yemen said they felt.
“We have one of the branches of al Qaeda that’s especially active. There’s the Houthis — neither of these two groups friendly to U.S. citizens. We’ve had to weigh very, very carefully what is the safest way, the best way for us to help them.”
Higgins said ultimately each U.S. citizen is going to have to judge what is best for themselves and their families.
“For many U.S. citizens, that’s going to mean sheltering in place. For other U.S. citizens, we’re actively working at getting information to them on different avenues for travel out of Yemen.”
Read in full here.
As many other countries pull their citizens from Yemen, the United States is telling Americans to try to stick it out http://t.co/RCl4LG7uaJ
— Foreign Policy (@ForeignPolicy) April 21, 2015
IOM announced today that it has temporarily suspended is evacuation operations in Yemen. It also says, “To date, operations continue to be hampered by unacceptable demands in regard to the identity of passengers to be evacuated by IOM. Security conditions within and around Sana’a airport have also worsened, affecting the ability of IOM staff to operate on airport grounds.”
Meanwhile in Djibouti:
Also this one on the DPB on April 20, we’re not sure which email is this referring to:
QUESTION: — between a Yemen – or a U.S. citizen stuck in Yemen.
MS HARF: Yep.
QUESTION: I know you can’t comment on the specific case —
MS HARF: Correct.
QUESTION: — but just the language of that email that she had the exchange with, is that the kind of language that Americans still stuck in Yemen can expect?
MS HARF: Yes, I saw that email exchange. I think a couple points on that. The first is if you look at a majority of that email, it’s really the same messages I’ve been giving from the podium about the fact that we have been warning for some time, that we are trying to do things to assist. And we have a number of people – we’ve actually increased our consular staff in Djibouti to help consular services to Americans who have been able to leave Yemen. But we have consular officers who are working around the clock in Djibouti and elsewhere doing so.
I think, look, that language is probably not typical of the services we’re providing to Americans, candidly. I probably wouldn’t have used it. But I think looking at our broader efforts in terms of the consular support we’re giving to Americans, even in a very difficult operating environment where we don’t have an embassy, where we have been warning, we – our consular officers really are working very hard to get them what they need even, again, under very difficult circumstances.
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The State Department to date has refused to give
an estimate a guesstimate on the American citizen population in Yemen. The OIG report back in 2010 estimated that the Yemeni-American community was about 55,000. Our source from Consular Affairs who is not authorized to speak for the bureau indicates that the most recent estimate is actually much higher than that OIG number.
Odd thing about this? There was a congressional hearing on Yemen several days ago. The congressional reps did not ask about this. The NEA principal deputy assistance secretary of state on that hearing did not talk about this. And so far, we haven’t heard from the angry old men in the Senate chamber screaming over the abandonment of U.S. citizens in foreign country.
In related news, last week, the Council on American-Islamic Relations filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government on behalf of dozens of Yemeni-Americans trapped in Yemen for failure to evacuate them. Today, a San Francisco man has sued the State Department in federal court, claiming that American embassy officials in Yemen illegally revoked his passport and left him stranded in that country for more than a year. This passport revocation case is just the latest in a string of lawsuits alleging improper revocation of passports by the U.S. Embassy in Yemen.