Donald Trump: Yemen Raid

On January 28, 2017, a group of Navy SEALs carried out a raid on an al-Qaeda compound in Yemen.  This raid was the first military action conducted under President Donald Trump.  The raid resulted in several civilian casualties, three SEALs wounded, and one SEAL died.  Additionally, an Osprey aircraft had to be destroyed after it crashed.  As such, the raid is considered to be controversial and some say it was botched.

The following timeline of events.

  • November 7, 2016:  US Central Command submitted a plan to the Pentagon to target al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
  • December 19, 2016: A plan for Yemen was approved by the Department of Defense and recommended to be moved ahead.  Colin Kahl, a former Obama administration official, said the request only included a broad request to carry out raids in Yemen.
  • January 6, 2017: Obama administration met to discuss the Yemen proposal and was approved.  It was decided to hold the raid for a moonless night.  One defense official said the January 28 raid was given consideration but others said it was not discussed.  The recommendation was that it would be reviewed by the incoming administration.
  • January 24, 2017: Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis read a memorandum about the raid and sent it back to the White House with his support.  The specifics of what was in the memorandum are not clear.
  • January 25, 2017: Trump was briefed by National Security Adviser Michael Flynn on the recommendation to which Trump requested a meeting with Mattis and Marine General Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  At the meeting, several advisers along with Vice President Mike Pence, CIA director Mike Pompeo, Steve Bannon, and Curtis Kellogg.  The decision was to go ahead as soon as Trump gave the formal authorization.
  • January 26-27, 2017: Trump formally authorized the raid.
  • January 28, 2017: Navy SEALs carried out the raid on an al-Qaeda compound under the cover of darkness for concealment.
    • Willain “Ryan” Owens and three other SEALs were wounded.
    • An aviation mishap resulted in an MV-22 Osprey aircraft crashing.  It was decided to destroy it with an airstrike to keep it from falling in al-Qaeda hands.
    • Fourteen militants were killed along with numerous civilians.  Among the dead was the 8-year-old daughter of an US born cleric who joined al-Qaeda.  Several female militants opened fire on the SEALs.
  • January 29, 2017:  US officials acknowledged the raid in Yemen and the death of a service member.  President Trump called the raid successful and that 14 militants were killed and intelligence was captured.
  • January 30, 2017: Local media reports began emerging that numerous civilians were killed in the raid.
  • January 31, 2017:  The military identified Owens as the Navy SEAL killed in the raid.  The Pentagon said that it was assessing reports of civilian casualties.
  • February 1, 2017:  The military acknowledged that it was likely that civilians were killed.  Estimates of the civilian casualties range from 14-25.  The media started questioning if the raid was planned and if it was approved with sufficient preparation.
  • February 2, 2017:  Pentagon and White House defended the level of planning and execution of the raid and that reports that the mission was compromised were not true.

During the raid, the SEALs grabbed laptops, hard drives, and cell phones.  The Trump administration has claimed that there was vital intelligence captured that would help with future counter-terrorist operations.  Many in the intelligence community dispute this claim.  Senator John McCain, who was briefed on what transpired on the raid, also disputes this assessment.  Most officials are saying that most of the intelligence were things that were already known but one official has said that it contained hundreds of contact details. One example was a bomb making video that was taken down because it was commonly available since 2007.

Naturally, There has been finger-pointing.  Trump’s critics are saying that it was his fault since he signed off on the raid.  The White House is saying that most of the planning was done by the Obama administration and that the mission was under way before Trump’s inauguration.  Trump has also said it was the generals who “lost Ryan.”  Others are saying that it was not Trump’s fault as he was taking the advice of seasoned general.

There have been calls for an investigation into the raid.  There are questions about how the SEALs lost the element of surprise which resulted in a major firefight. There has not been any official investigation started.  The military is conducting its own review along with the materials gathered which should give a better indication of how successful was the raid.

References and Further Reading

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