Yemen's president on Wednesday fled his hometown of Aden after Shiite rebels captured a key nearby air base formerly used by U.S. special forces.
President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi escaped to an undisclosed location after Houthi rebels took al-Annad, Yemen’s largest air base, a mere 35 miles away from his hometown, the Associated Press reported.
The rebels’ victory Wednesday marks the second time they have forced Hadi to retreat. The embattled leader was ousted from Sanaa, the capital city, last month.
Hadi’s retreat is the latest setback for a government once lauded by President Obama as a key counterterrorism ally and a success in the fight against terrorism.
The Hadi administration gave the U.S. a foothold in the region to help fight al Qaeda and also accepted Guantanamo Bay detainees.
The al-Annad air base was the launch pad for U.S. drone strikes in the Middle East and a valuable staging area for coalition forces fighting al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the terror group's local affiliate..
The U.S. evacuated its remaining personnel in Yemen on Sunday amid worsening security conditions.
The Associated Press said this included nearly 100 soldiers stationed at al-Annad, some of whom were also special forces.
Lawmakers last weekend harshly criticized America’s withdrawal from Yemen.
House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said on Sunday that the move would leave the U.S. with “no intelligence footprint” to track terrorist organizations in Yemen.
Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden to update Americans on omicron; Congress back Sunday shows - Spotlight shifts to omicron variant Schiff: Jan. 6 panel decision on charges for Meadows could come this week MORE (D-Calif.), the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, Sunday he could scarcely envision a bleaker scenario.
“It is difficult to imagine a more dangerous downward spiral than we have seen in Yemen the last six months,” he said.
The Houthi rebellion has left Yemen wide open for terrorist infiltration, observers warn. Besides local al Qaeda forces, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is also expected to expand their operations there.
Suicide bombers attacked two Houthi mosques last Friday. The twin blasts left at least 120 worshippers dead and another 300 wounded.