US commander laments loss of counterterrorism presence in Yemen amid al-Qaida gains

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WASHINGTON — The top commander of U.S. special operations forces is expressing "very great concern" about losing a presence on the ground in Yemen, where his forces had been working with Yemeni forces against al-Qaida's affiliate there.

Army Gen. Joseph Votel made the comments during an appearance Friday at the Stimson Center, a Washington think tank. Votel is commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, based in Florida.

Votel was asked by a reporter whether he was concerned about losing Yemen as a base for U.S. counterterrorism training, advising and intelligence-gathering. U.S. special operations forces were pulled out in March when the government collapsed.

Votel said it was a big worry and that his command is looking at ways to compensate for the loss. He called it a dilemma for special operations forces.

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