U.S. Marines prepare to set up a simulated embassy reinforcement during Amphibious Landing Exercise 2015 at Clark Air Base in the Philippines, Oct. 2, 2014. PHIBLEX 15 is an annual, bilateral training exercise conducted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines alongside U.S. Marine and Navy forces to strengthen interoperability across a range of military operations to include disaster relief and contingency operations. The Marines are with Co. K, Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Richard Currier)
The Marine security detachment guarding the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen left no operational weapons behind as troops evacuated the country, a senior Marine official with knowledge of the movement told Marine Corps Times.
Officials with the Sanaa airport told the Associated Press earlier today that Houthi rebels seized more than 25 official U.S. vehicles in the wake of the hasty departure of embassy staff, some with personal weapons left inside.
A Pentagon spokesman, Col. Steve Warren, told reporters that the embassy's Marine security guard detachment destroyed larger weapons, including machine guns, and added that he believed they had turned over personal weapons to Yemeni officials because they could not take them on commercial flights.
But the Marine official, who asked that he not be identified because he was unauthorized to discuss the situation, said no working Marine weapons, whether crew-served or personal rifles and sidearms, had been were seized or handed over as the troops departed.
"No Marines handed over a functional weapon to anybody," the official said.
Each weapon was made inoperable before the Marines' departure, the official said. It was not clear, he said, whether the Marines had damaged the weapons' barrels, removed rifle bolts, or taken other steps to render them unusable.
At this point, the official said, a contingent of about 100 Marines with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Central Command has left the country via air transportation from the airport at Sanaa. He was not certain whether the entire embassy security detachment had also departed as of Wednesday afternoon.
The move to evacuate Yemen follows a Tuesday announcement that the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa would close amid deteriorating security conditions following the country's takeover by Shiite Houthi rebels with ties to Iran. U.S. officials have said the embassy will remain closed until conditions in the country improve.
The announcement reverses a more permissive stance by then-President Donald Trump, and it concludes a review that has lasted for more than a year. Bonnie Jenkins, the State Department’s undersecretary for arms control and international security, said the new policy fulfills “a commitment that President Biden made as a candidate,” when he described Trump’s decision as “reckless.”
The U.S. Pacific Fleet commander and the Japanese defense minister said close cooperation between their naval forces is more important than ever amid rising tensions over China, North Korea and Russia.