The objectives of the Yemen raid were to recover computers and eliminate key terrorists. After it was over, one Navy SEAL and over a dozen civilians were killed, suggesting something went horribly wrong in the first counter-terrorism military action under the Trump administration. The White House called the raid a success, but NBC News is reporting that a senior military official with direct knowledge of the raid has a much different view.
“Almost everything went wrong,” a senior intelligence official said. “We went in with the intent of capturing phones and computers and we don’t know yet if anything of great value was obtained.”
Months before Donald Trump was sworn in as president, multiple intelligence and military officials began planning the raid in Yemen that was meant to cripple al-Qaeda’s organization in the Arabian Peninsula. The Obama administration was advised to hold off on ordering the Yemen raid until the next moonless night — which was after Trump’s inauguration.
Top al-Qaeda leaders that were part of the same terrorist group responsible for the Charlie Hebdo killings in Paris in 2015 were thought to be holed up in a compound in south Yemen. After three months of training, intense surveillance, and gathering intel around the site, Trump gave the green light for the Yemen raid.
Early on Sunday morning, January 29, SEAL Team 6 and Emirati commandos landed in the village near the compound. Intelligence officials reportedly said the Yemen raid did not go as planned from the start because somehow the terrorists were tipped off which eliminated any element of surprise.
“Almost immediately, the raiding force on the ground took intense fire, according to the briefing paper and a senior military official. Occupants of the targeted house and its compound, along with their guard force, moved to a separate cluster of houses nearby where families, including women and children, were staying. Armed women fired on the U.S. and Emirati forces.”
Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owen was killed in action. As the SEALS engaged in a firefight, backup and a medical chopper were requested. The MV-22 Osprey medical chopper that responded made a crash landing, injuring several of its passengers.
With the ground forces under heavy fire, U.S. Central Command said in a statement that aerial backup arrived providing cover fire.
“The known possible civilian casualties appear to have been potentially caught up in aerial gunfire that was called in to assist U.S. forces in contact against a determined enemy that included armed women firing from prepared fighting positions, and U.S. special operations members receiving fire from all sides to include houses and other buildings.”
The firefight lasted around 50 minutes. Six Americans were injured, a $70 million aircraft was destroyed, and women and children were among the civilian casualties.
Three of the 14 al-Qaeda soldiers killed during the Yemen raid were top leaders. NPR News reports that 24 people were killed including women and nine children. The U.S. military has opened an investigation into what went wrong during the raid.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer called the Yemen raid mostly a success on Thursday.
“It’s hard to ever call something a complete success, when you have the loss of life or people injured,” Spicer said. “But I think when you look at the totality of what was gained to prevent the future loss of life it is a successful operation by all standards.”
Spicer also said Trump was not in the Situation Room when the raid in Yemen took place on Sunday morning, but he was briefed by his national security team during and after the raid. On Wednesday, Trump flew to Delaware to join Owen’s family when his body returned home.
Five days after being sworn in as president, Trump was presented with the intel about the planned Yemen raid over dinner. Trump’s national security team advised the SEALS be sent in and Trump agreed. The Yemen raid was the first of many life-or-death decisions ultimately made by President Trump and multiple reports indicate that nearly everything went wrong from the start.
[Featured Image by Drew Angerer/Getty Images]