The collapse of Yemen's government has led the United States to suspend counterterrorism operations in the country — and it could lead the Obama administration to begin talks with Shiite Muslim rebels to help defeat al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), The Washington Post reports.
"The agencies we worked with ... are really under the thumb of the Houthis," a senior administration official told the Post. "Our ability to work with them is not there."
The Houthis, the name by which the Shiite rebels are known, are suspected of being backed by Iran and have much disdain toward the U.S., according to the Post. They are enemies of AQAP, who are Sunni Islamist militants.
The rebels have seized much of Yemen since last fall — and President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, a staunch U.S. ally, and his cabinet resigned on Friday rather than submit to their demands at gunpoint. The Houthis had battled their way into Hadi's presidential palace.
Drones continue to be deployed over much of southern Yemen, where much of AQAP is based, the Post reports, but the rebels now control the Yemeni security forces that supplied vital intelligence information to the United States.
The armed drones are operated by the CIA and the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command.
Nineteen U.S. drone strikes have killed 124 militants and four civilians in Yemen in 2014, according to the New America Foundation, which maintains a database of drone operations.
The last deadly drone strike was an attack that killed nine suspected al-Qaida militants on Dec. 6, the foundation said.
"The chaos has aided al-Qaida," the U.S. official told the Post, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "There’s no question in our mind that al-Qaida has gotten a breather."
According to the report, U.S. officials said that operations with Yemen had been deteriorating since last fall. This is when Houthis began moving toward Sanaa, the capital city.
The cooperation had been terminated in recent days amid the rebel attack that culminated in Hadi's resignation, the Post reports.
In its concern about AQAP, the Obama administration would be open to discussing several issues with Houthis, including permission to continue its assault against the terrorist group, the official said.
"We wouldn’t be averse" to talks, the official told the Post. "We’re not against the Houthi movement."
In the meantime, U.S. officials are considering whether to withdraw military trainers and liaison officers from Yemen, the Post reports. The U.S. embassy would remain open, but the Obama official said that those working for the State Department, CIA and other agencies would be pulled out.
"We will be bringing our numbers down," the official told the Post.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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