Americans trapped in Yemen

The Wall Street Journal reports: Loud explosions and plumes of smoke not far from his father’s house in Yemen about a month ago announced to Talal Hameed that Saudi Arabia’s air bombing campaign had begun.

That was the cue for the 32-year-old American and his wife to leave. But the U.S. government didn’t evacuate them, he said, deeming the mission too risky.

“It was a shock,” Mr. Hameed said. “In the movies, the U.S. doesn’t leave anyone behind. That’s the movies, but it’s not the reality.”

Mr. Hameed, a resident of San Francisco who returned to his country of birth last year to marry, is one of hundreds of Americans trapped in Yemen amid intense fighting and a deteriorating humanitarian situation.

Mr. Hameed, who had been driving cars for Uber and running a cleaning company in San Francisco, said he sent emails over the past month to the State Department and to U.S. officials about the situation, but got no response. Meanwhile, other countries have managed to evacuate hundreds of their own citizens.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said recently that the U.S. has set up an online system where Americans in Yemen can register to receive updates on opportunities to leave. The department has also been talking to other countries about Americans joining their rescue missions, she said.

But the State Department’s assessment is that a rescue with U.S. government assets is too risky. Any evacuation point designated in a country with an active al Qaeda branch and an unstable security picture would put the security of Americans and any U.S. military assets involved at risk, an official said.

The plight of those like Mr. Hameed is a conundrum for the U.S. Authorities must balance a duty to protect Americans abroad against the dangers of a rescue mission that could become a target for armed groups, including an al Qaeda offshoot and anti-American Houthi militants. [Continue reading…]

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