The United States' decision
to evacuate the remaining Special Forces troops Saturday from Yemen means a more dangerous situation for the US in that will be no intelligence footprint in the country, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul said Sunday.
"Yemen is one of the most dangerous spots in the world," the Texas Republican told ABC "This Week with George Stephanopoulos"
host Martha Raddatz.
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On Saturday, U.S. military forces, including Special Forces commandos, evacuated the Al Anad air base after al Qaida forces attacked the nearby city of al-Houta. Officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren't authorized to discuss troop movements, did not say whether the troops left the country.
"Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is the largest external operation force within al Qaida," McCaul said Sunday. "They are responsible for the underwear bomber; five plots against the West in the last several years. They were tied to the Corazon Group in Syria to make bombs to blow up airplanes."
And withdrawing completely from Yemen means "we will have no intelligence footprint or capabilities to monitor what AQAP and ISIS and the Shia militants are doing in the region," said McCaul. "You know, good intelligence stops plots against the homeland. Without that intelligence, we cannot effectively stop it. That's what I'm most concerned about."
The State Department said Sunday it is actively monitoring terrorist threats from Yemen and has the ability to address them, but McCaul said that is not the same as having "human intelligence" value in the region.
"Maybe we can launch drone strikes from other countries, but if you don't have that intelligence on the ground, how do you know who to hit and where and when?" he said.
He pointed out that the United States pulled out of Libya and left a vacuum that is allowing ISIS to train militants, "and now we get Yemen. you know, all of Northern Africa seems to be falling to this power vacuum that is being filled by the terrorists."
And the lines are getting blurry. AQAP fights ISIS, said McCaul, but on the other hand, Boko Haram has pledged its allegiance to the Islamic State.
"I predict you're going to see more and more of this shifting of Al Qaida fighters going over to ISIS because they are the game in town," McCaul said. "So I think these developments in Yemen greatly disturb me, because of their potential to attack the United States."
Further, McCaul said President Barack Obama's policies when it comes to ISIS aren't working.
"It's a policy of containment, not a policy to degrade and destroy and defeat ISIS in the region," he said. "The president, when he launched the airstrikes in Syria, the same day touted Yemen as the model for counterterrorism operations. And that has now imploded ...We have to get more aggressive in taking out ISIS where they exist and the head of the snake is in Iraq and Syria.
McCaul said he is also concerned about threats against the U.S. military and a "hit list" containing the names and families of 100 personnel.
"We have the foreign fighters," he said of ISIS. "There are about 30,000 of them, 5,000 with Western passports. And we have a — a number that I can't disclose publicly. They're here in the United States."
And when you add the foreign fighters along with "homegrown violent extremists who can be inspired and radicalized over the Internet," it is of great concern, said McCaul. "I think, unfortunately, it would be not so difficult to pull off."
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