White House, Pentagon defend al-Qaeda raid in Yemen
The administration of President Donald Trump has defended a US Special Forces raid in Yemen as a “successful operation,” despite the death of civilians and children.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Thursday that the intelligence gathered during the raid would ultimately protect American lives.
“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 [it was] when you look at the totality of what was gained to prevent the future loss of life, here in America, and against our people and our institutions and probably throughout the world, in terms of what some of these individuals could have done.”
US special forces carried out an attack on Sunday against a purported position of al-Qaeda militants in the central Yemeni province of Bayda.
US officials maintain that their commandos killed 14 members of the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the civilian deaths occurred when US aircraft were called for help.
The dead are said to include the 8-year-old daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, the US-born cleric who was involved in planning terrorist operations for al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen before he was killed in a US drone strike in 2011.
The attack also took the life of US Navy SEAL Team Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens and left three other American troops wounded.
US Navy Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, disputed allegations that the mission was poorly planned and had lost the element of surprise. “We have nothing to suggest that this was compromised,” Davis said, adding that the allegations “do not match with reality.”
The New York Times and Reuters reported Thursday that the Navy SEALs learned that their mission had been compromised after intercepting a transmission that showed the militants were preparing for their arrival.
AQAP has taken advantage of the chaos and breakdown of security in Yemen to tighten its grip on the southern and southeastern parts of the Arab country.
The US carries out drone attacks in Yemen and several other countries, claiming to be targeting al-Qaeda elements; but, local sources say civilians have been the main victims of the attacks.
The drone strikes in Yemen continue alongside the Saudi military aggression against the impoverished conflict-ridden country.