Washington (CNN)United States Special Forces personnel will continue to operate in Yemen conducting training missions with Yemeni forces, as well as retaining the ability to conduct counter-terrorism operations should they be needed, despite the suspension of U.S. embassy operations within the country a U.S. Defense official tells CNN.
U.S. special forces stay in Yemen
This follows the removal of all remaining U.S. embassy personnel at the embassy in Sanaa after the State Department announced it would suspend its operations in the country amid the continuing deterioration of security in the country.
Yemen has been without a functioning central government since rebel Houthi forces overran the capital of Sanaa and dissolved the country's parliament, after the resignation of President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi.
U.S. officials frequently cite al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the terror group's franchise based in Yemen, one of the most dangerous terror groups in the world based on their previous attempts to attack U.S. interests and their stated goal of striking Western interests.
Defense officials maintain the United States retains the capability to disrupt and strike at threats to U.S. security emanating from within Yemen.
With the country in political turmoil, the Pentagon has acknowledged the counter-terror mission against AQAP through the use of drones and other measures has entered a difficult phase without a reliable partner in country of the government.
"I'd say there's no question as a result of the political instability in Yemen that our counter-terrorism capabilities" have been effected Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby told reporters Tuesday. "We're watching the situation very closely, and we're monitoring it every single day, if not every single hour."
A separate defense official tells CNN the United States military offered intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets to assist in the departure of the remaining US embassy personnel from Yemen. All personnel were able to leave the country via commercial means and did not require an evacuation through military means the official said.
With the suspension of embassy operations in Yemen and no US personnel on the ground, the US Marine contingent guarding the embassy also departed the country, and the security of the embassy is now the responsibility of local security forces.