PHOTO: Donald and Melania Trump attended the transfer of the body of Ryan Owens, a US commando killed in a raid in Yemen last weekend
The US military has accused President Donald Trump of ineptitude leading to the deaths of an American commando and many civilians in a raid in Yemen last weekend.
Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens was killed in the raid on a position of Al Qa’eda in the Arabian Peninsula in Bayda Province. The Pentagon said 14 fighters were slain, while medics at the scene spoke of 30 deaths, including 10 women and children.
Military officials said on Wednesday that they were looking into the assault, including whether more civilians were killed. US Central Command said an investigating team had “concluded regrettably that civilian non-combatants were likely killed”, and that children may have been among the casualties.
At the same time, unnamed officials told Reuters that “Trump approved his first covert counterterrorism operation without sufficient intelligence, ground support, or adequate backup preparations”.
Three officials said the attacking SEAL team found itself dropping onto a reinforced base defended by landmines, snipers, and a larger than expected group of heavily-armed fighters. They said “a brutal firefight” killed Owens and at least 15 Yemeni women and children.
One of the dead was confirmed as the 8-year-old daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen killed in Yemen in 2011 by an American drone strike.
One of the three U.S. officials said on-the-ground surveillance of the compound was “minimal, at best”. As Sunday’s firefight escalated, the SEALs called in Marine helicopter gunships and Harrier jump jets, and then two MV-22 Osprey vertical takeoff and landing aircraft for an extraction.
One of the two Ospreys suffered engine failure and hit the ground so hard that two crew members were injured. One of the Marine jets launched a precision-guided bomb to destroy it after the crew were evacuated.
Obama Withheld Approval
The officials said the base was identified as a target before the Obama Administration left office on January 20, but President Obama held off on approval of a raid.
A Trump Administration official maintained that the operation was thoroughly vetted by the Obama Administration and a Pentagon official signed off on it in January, although the raid was delayed for “operational reasons”.
Press spokesman Sean Spicer insisted on Wednesday, “Knowing that we killed an estimated 14 AQAP members and that we gathered an unbelievable amount of intelligence that will prevent the potential deaths or attacks on American soil – is something that I think most service members understand, that that’s why they joined the service.”
On Wednesday, Trump made a sudden visit to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to meet the family of Owens, who had been a chief special warfare operator.
An Alternative Account
Another account from unnamed sources, given to The New York Times, is less critical of Trump.
The story says Trump and close advisors Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon were joined at a White House dinner on January 25 by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, as well as Vice President Mike Pence and National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.
The article says Obama did not act simply because the Pentagon wanted to launch the attack on a moonless night, which would not occur until after January 20.