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With U.S. and UK forces gone, fears rise that terror could blossom in Yemen

CNN  — 

The United States and Great Britain have pulled their last forces out of strife-torn Yemen, raising fears that the failed state will become even more of a breeding ground for terror groups plaguing the Middle East and the West.

Over the weekend, the United States evacuated the last of its special operations forces – including Navy SEALs and Army Delta Force troops – amid the deteriorating security situation in the country, the U.S. State Department said.

On Monday, a security source in the region familiar with the situation in Yemen told CNN’s Nic Robertson that British special forces had also left Yemen in the last few days. The British Ministry of Defence declined to comment.

The U.S. move came a day after terrorists bombed two mosques in the capital, Sanaa, on Friday, killing at least 137 and wounding 357 others, according to Yemen’s state-run Saba news agency. The terror group ISIS, based in Syria, claimed responsibility for the attack.

It also followed months of fighting between government forces and Houthi rebels, who on Sunday seized the international airport in Taiz. The rebels now control both the airport and Sanaa.

Yemen has been a key U.S. ally in the fight against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, allowing U.S. drones and special operations forces to stalk terrorists in the country. Now, that arrangement is in tatters, along with any semblance of peace in the Middle Eastern nation.

While State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said Saturday that the United States would continue to “take action to disrupt continuing, imminent threats to the United States and our citizens,” the move left some wondering what role the U.S. could play with no forces on the ground. The country closed its embassy in Sanaa last month.

“I don’t think there is an active role for the U.S. other than intelligence and trying to see where the dust is going to settle,” said U.S. Sen. Angus King, a Maine Independent who serves on the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence committees.

That raises the possibility of the already unstable country becoming an even more fertile environment for terror groups to collaborate, grow and export violence, according to Robin Wright, a security and defense analyst with the Woodrow Wilson Center.

“It’s becoming much like Syria, much like Afghanistan was at the peak of its instabili