McCain slams Obama 'success story' in Yemen

Sen. John McCainJohn McCainLots of (just) talk about 'draining the swamp' 56 memorable moments from a wild presidential race Is Georgia turning blue? MORE (R-Ariz.) slammed President Obama's counterterrorism strategy in Yemen on Monday, as Shiite rebels took over state media.

"More problems in Pres Obama's anti-terror 'success story,'" he tweeted Monday. "Houthi rebels seize #Yemen state media, battle soldiers."

On Monday, Shiite rebels known as the Houthis clashed in Sana'a, the Yemeni capital, with government security forces, according to The Associated Press.

"This is a step toward a coup and it is targeting the state's legitimacy," Yemeni Information Minister Nadia Sakkaf told the AP.

The clashes are taking place days after the group abducted the president's chief of staff. The rebels captured the capital in September, and have threatened Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi's grip since.

The government's fall could risk the United States's ability to continue its counterterrorism efforts against al Qaeda and the Arabian Peninsula, which is seen as al Qaeda's most dangerous affiliate.

Obama touted Yemen in September as an example of a counterterrorism success story and a model for the U.S.-led war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.  

"This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years," the president said on Sept. 10.

However, since then, violence in the capital has worsened.

Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of U.S. Central Command, warned in November at the Atlantic Council that the U.S. "is in danger of losing a key partner in our counterterrorism fight."

Public attention has refocused on Yemen, after U.S. and Western authorities discovered that at least one of the terrorist attackers of Paris newspaper Charlie Hebdo trained in Yemen with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

The group has claimed responsibility for orchestrating the attack, although some experts remain skeptical.

Violence in Yemen also complicates any potential return of the approximately 80 Yemeni detainees remaining at the U.S.'s Guantánamo Bay detention facility in Cuba. About 50 of them have been cleared for release, but if the Yemeni government is unable to monitor them, they would have to go to a third country willing to accept them.