The closing of the U.S. diplomatic missions has been done “out of an abundance of caution," but that the measure is a temporary one.
On August 6, the U.S. State Department ordered a reduction in the number of U.S. government personnel in Yemen, and re-alerted American citizens to leave the country. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a statement that the U.S. is “concerned about a threat stream indicating the potential for terrorist attacks against U.S. persons or facilities overseas, especially emanating from the Arabian Peninsula.”
The order to reduce U.S. personnel in Yemen followed the closure on August 4th of nearly two dozen American embassies and consulates until Saturday August 10.
At a press briefing, White House Spokesman Jay Carney said the action was taken to close the missions because of “an ongoing threat from al-Qaida and its affiliates:”
“There are individuals and organizations out there that are focused on doing the United States and the American people harm. . .What we know is that the threat emanates from and may be focused on occurring in the Arabian Peninsula, but it could potentially be beyond that or elsewhere.”
Mr. Carney said that while the core of Al-Qaida has been greatly diminished in recent years, Al-Qaida affiliates, in particular Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, have “demonstrated both an interest in and a willingness to attempt serious attacks on the United States, our allies and our people:”
“For that reason, we have to be continually vigilant, and have been. And the threat that we've made public in recent days reflects the fact that we are vigilant about the willingness of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and other affiliated organizations with Al-Qaida to take action against us and against our allies and our people. And we are taking all the precautions we can as we gather more information.”
Mr. Carney emphasized that the closing of the U.S. diplomatic missions has been done “out of an abundance of caution” to protect U.S. diplomatic personnel from a potential threat, but that the measure is a temporary one. U.S. engagement around the world including in high risk and volatile areas, is essential, he said, and will continue.