The Obama administration's senior counterterrorism official is acknowledging that U.S. intelligence was surprised by the collapse of the U.S.-backed government in Yemen.

Nick Rasmussen, who directs the National Counterterrorism Center, told the Senate intelligence committee Thursday that Yemen's American-funded army failed to oppose advancing Houthi rebels in the same way the U.S.-supported Iraqi military refused to fight Islamic State militants last year.

Rasmussen made the admission under questioning by Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican who noted that President Barack Obama recently touted Yemen as a success. Now, it's a "total disaster," Blunt said.

Rasmussen acknowledged that efforts against al Qaida's Yemen affiliate, considered one of the most dangerous to Americans, had been significantly diminished by the collapse of the government and this week's evacuation of the U.S. Embassy.