A Jan. 29 raid on an al Qaeda compound in Yemen went wrong, in part because an eight-year-old girl was killed (like her jihadi father, who was killed previously, she was an American citizen).
NPR tries to sort out truth from fiction about the raid.
U.S. officials say they were able to gather helpful intelligence and that 14 al Qaeda militants were killed. But there were also multiple problems:
- the death of an elite U.S. Navy SEAL, Ryan Owens;
- 23 civilians were killed, including the 8-year-old daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki (Awlaki was an American-born cleric and inspirational leader for al Qaeda who was killed in a drone strike in 2011); and
- a $90 million Osprey, a tilt-rotor aircraft, was destroyed after a crash landing.
The operation, the first authorized of the Trump presidency, also raises serious questions about the planning and decision-making of the current occupant of the Oval Office, as well as the truthfulness of information coming out of the White House.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Feb. 2 that the raid was planned last November — under the Obama administration — and that the goal of the mission was to get information.
But neither is true, NPR’s Tom Bowman reports.
Rather, the specific place of this eventual raid was identified in November as one to focus on. (Other potential places were also identified.)
“The goal of the raid was intelligence-gathering,” Spicer said Tuesday, “and that’s what we received, and that’s what we got. That’s why we can deem it a success.”
But the U.S. would not send in SEAL Team Six, the premiere anti-terrorist commandos, to pick up some cellphones and computers, a U.S. official told Bowman.
Part of the effort was to get top al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, leaders. While more than a dozen militants were killed, a top target, Qassim al-Rimi, either slipped away or was not at the location.
Rimi is the leader of AQAP, seen as a top recruiter and the third-most-dangerous terrorist in the world. Bowman confirmed that Rimi was “one of the objectives,” along with disrupting planning and plotting, in addition to collecting material.
What’s more, a U.S. official expressed concern that Trump made the decision over dinner. This should have been decided with rigorous debate in the Situation Room, the official said. …
The New York Times, citing U.S. officials, also reported, “Yemen has withdrawn permission for the United States to run Special Operations ground missions against suspected terrorist groups in the country. …”
The AP, however, citing an official statement from Yemen’s foreign minister, Abdul-Malik al-Mekhlafi, didn’t go as far. Mekhlafi called for a “reassessment” of the raid, but he said it was “not true” that there was a demand for a halt in U.S. operations.
“Yemen continues to cooperate with the United States and continues to abide by all the agreements,” Mekhlafi said.