Tags: Al-Qaida | America's Forum | Middle East | War on Terrorism | Sen. James Risch | Yemen | al-Qaida

Sen. Risch Blames Obama for Yemeni Turmoil: 'It's a Mess Over There'

By    |   Friday, 03 Apr 2015 11:03 PM

Sen. James Risch on Friday described Yemen as "a failed state" after al-Qaida militants overran a critical military base, freeing 300 inmates — including as many as 90 terrorists.

"It has completely collapsed," the Idaho Republican, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told Brianna Keilar on CNN. "It's a mess over there.

"I frankly am greatly disappointed in how the administration handled it from recent months to where we got to today," Risch said.

Members of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) early Thursday stormed Mukalla, a major port city in southern Yemen and the provincial capital of the country's largest province, Hadramawt.

The terrorists seized government buildings and freed inmates from a prison, including a top Saudi-born leader.

The militants consolidated their hold of Mukalla on Friday, capturing its port and a major army base in the city, facing little resistance, military officials said. Soldiers fled the base without a fight as al-Qaida advanced toward the city's airport.

Hadramawt, which had been mostly peaceful as the crisis in Sanaa and Aden was building, has a long stretch of the border with Saudi Arabia on one side and lies on the Arabian Sea on the other, making it strategically significant.

The province also houses key oil companies — and close to the Mukalla port are fuel tanks that feed three major provinces.

AQAP was able to capture Mukalla because of the turmoil gripping Yemen, where the Saudi-led air campaign is targeting the Houthis and rival groups are fighting across much of the country.

Risch, also a member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, told CNN that the U.S. now had to worry about AQAP in Yemen — along with Iran — and disputed assertions by Keilar that Congress could have acted sooner to stop some of the bloodshed there.

"I disagree that it spun out of control very quickly," he said. "I'm sure the president sees the exact same intel that we see on the Intelligence Committee."

He then referenced Obama's lauding of Yemen as a counterterrorism success last September. "By the time he made that statement, he had to know there was difficulties there.

"Everyone knew Iran was in there supporting the Houthis," Risch continued. "The administration had to know what was going on.

"There were a lot of us that were urging the administration to do more in Yemen. Admittedly, their focus at the time was much more on Syria than on Yemen.

"But Yemen is a very, very dangerous situation because of how difficult it is to do intel in that country," Risch said.

The two-term senator also said slammed the Iranian nuclear framework, saying the Obama administration "gave away the farm right at the beginning" and that Tehran was elated that it has a clear pathway to a nuclear weapon.

"They are celebrating the fact that they now have a path forward," Risch said. "They know what they have to do and how they can do it.

"At the end of the 10 or 15 years, they will have the right to have a nuclear weapon."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Sen. James Risch on Friday described Yemen as "a failed state" after al-Qaida militants overran a critical military base, freeing 300 inmates — including as many as 90 terrorists. "It has completely collapsed," the Idaho Republican said on CNN. "It's a mess over there."
Sen. James Risch, Yemen, al-Qaida, military base, port, oil, Obama, CNN
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2015-03-03
Friday, 03 Apr 2015 11:03 PM
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