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White House stands by Trump’s first military raid, despite civilian, U.S. casualties

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Marine One, with President Donald Trump aboard, landed at Dover Air Force Base, Del. on Wednesday. Trump traveled to Dover AFB to meet with family members Chief of Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens, 36, of Peoria, Ill, the U.S. service member who was killed in a raid in Yemen, and who’s remains were returned Wednesday. Owens is the first known combat death of a member of the U.S. military under Trump’s administration.

WASHINGTON >> The White House on Thursday insisted that the risky ground raid personally approved by President Donald Trump against al-Qaida targets in Yemen was a “successful operation,” despite the death of a Navy SEAL and the Pentagon’s conclusion that civilians, including children, were “likely” killed in the operation.

“This was a very, very well thought-out and executed effort,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said. He called it “a successful operation by all standards.”

Spicer stressed that while the operation was the first counterterrorism raid approved by Trump, planning had occurred on President Barack Obama’s watch. He said the Defense Department had approved the raid on Dec. 19 and set it to proceed on the next moonless night, which did not happen until after Trump’s inauguration.

Some U.S. military officials reportedly were disputing the Trump administration’s claims, saying that “almost everything went wrong” in a botched covert mission that the president gave the green light to without sufficient intelligence or ground support.

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s national security adviser Colin Kahl tweeted on Thursday that the Trump administration’s claim that Obama cleared the operation was “false,” adding that it was “deferred to Trump so he could run a deliberate process.”

The Pentagon says the operation in Yemen’s Baida province against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, killed 14 militants and seized “valuable and actionable intelligence,” including documents and computers.

But what was supposed to be a lightning raid led to the death of a Navy SEAL, identified as 36-year-old William “Ryan” Owens, in a nearly hour-long firefight. Three more service members were injured when an MV-22 Osprey, sent in to evacuate the wounded, crash-landed after losing power. The damaged $70 million aircraft was later destroyed by a U.S. airstrike so it would not fall into the hands of the militants, according to the Pentagon.

Late on Wednesday, the U.S. Central Command said in a statement that it had concluded that civilians “were likely killed” in the midst of the “ferocious firefight,” and that “casualties may include children.” The statement said the military was looking into whether there “were any still-undetected civilian casualties.”

Medics in the region and local media reported 30 casualties, including at least 10 women and children. The London-based human rights group Reprieve, which monitors civilian casualties of drone strikes, on Thursday said it had obtained evidence of 23 civilian casualties, including a newborn and 10 children.

One of the civilian casualties was the 8-year-old daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, a senior U.S.-born al-Qaida leader who was killed by a U.S. drone strike in 2011, according to posts by her family on social media. Nawar al-Awlaki, who was known as Nora, also was a U.S. citizen. Her brother, 16-year-old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, also died in a drone strike authorized by Obama.

The Pentagon initially denied that there had been civilian casualties. Later, Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis acknowledged that an unspecified number of women could have been killed because “there were a lot of female combatants who were part of this.”

International monitoring groups have expressed concern that the death of civilians, especially children, is likely to be used for propaganda, with photos spread on social media in the aftermath of a raid.

“The first military actions by the Trump administration in Yemen bode poorly for the prospect of smartly and effectively countering AQAP,” the International Crisis Group, an independent Brussels-based crisis research center, said in a report on Thursday.

“The use of U.S. soldiers, high civilian casualties and disregard for local tribal and political dynamics … plays into AQAP’s narrative of defending Muslims against the West and could increase anti-U.S. sentiment and with it AQAP’s pool of recruits,” the group said.

When he was running for president, Trump said he backed killing family members of terrorist suspects.

“The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families,” the presidential candidate said on Fox News in 2015.

The operation was the first U.S.-led ground raid in Yemen since 2014, although U.S. forces have conducted airstrikes against al-Qaida in the country. Since a Saudi-led coalition launched air strikes in Yemen in 2015, more than 10,000 people have died and 40,000 have been wounded, according to the United Nations.

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  • And what was gained by the death of William “Ryan” Owens? Not to mention an 8 year old girl? This is the first of many needless deaths that will happen under the Trump watch. Just like Vietnam. Declare victory despite the absence of it. I fear for our country and the world.

    • It is a common theme with these Muslim terrorists to either use civilians as human shields or keep their families with them along with all their stored weapons. Then the new media cries that “innocent” women and children were killed. Sure they may have not themselves been terrorists but their own fathers or family members put them in that position knowing they could die. Maybe they believe they all will go to see Mohammed after.

      • 50skane:
        “Sure they may have not themselves been terrorists but their own fathers or family members put them in that position knowing they could die.”

        Many of these “innocent” civilians ARE combatants and would eventually become terrorists.

        Read:

        “Later, Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis acknowledged that an unspecified number of women could have been killed because ‘“there were a lot of female combatants who were part of this.’

    • Trump will declare all his disastrous “victories.” His ego requires it. He remains what he always was: a shibai artist. But now he is also a very dangerous man. America has chosen a very reckless course.

      • DPK, you raise an interesting issue. Btw, Sherman would have been hung as a war criminal if the South had won. The fact is, even in war, we have to choose between right and wrong. Trump’s the-end-justifies-the-means approach is right to some but wrong to others. In the end, each person has to decide for her-/himself. At what point is collateral damage acceptable? Is it okay to drop a bomb on a city and kill thousands of civilians to take out terrorists? Most would say no, I think. But some will say yes if that means bringing a quicker end to terrorist threats. (Think Hiroshima and Nagasaki.) I guess what I’m trying to say is that war isn’t necessarily hell, but it could be if we choose to make it so.

        • A voice of reason. Mahalo kimo.
          Rules of Engagements? War is to vanquish an opponent. Killing is part of this action. Do we also kill children or non-combatants? We try not to but this is what happens in war.
          I get scared with people who seem to glorify killing.
          I hope the sacrifice was worth the loss of lives.

    • Is this the “innocent, wouldn’t hurt a fly” 8 year old girl ?:

      “…One of the civilian casualties was the 8-year-old daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, a senior U.S.-born al-Qaida leader who was killed by a U.S. drone strike in 2011, according to posts by her family on social media. Nawar al-Awlaki, who was known as Nora…”

      GOOD… one less potential terrorist ~~~

  • Medics in the region and local media reported 30 casualties, including at least 10 women and children.
    One of the civilian casualties was the 8-year-old daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, a senior U.S.-born al-Qaida leader who was killed by a U.S. drone strike in 2011, according to posts by her family on social media. Nawar al-Awlaki, who was known as Nora, also was a U.S. citizen.

    “The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families,” the presidential candidate said on Fox News in 2015.
    I can hear it already….. What’s all the fuss? He’s just keeping a campaign promise…. (shake my head)

  • The team of advisors who advised Trump to proceed with this operation, even with faulty or incomplete intelligence, included Steve Bannon and Trump’s son-in-law, a couple of idiots who shouldn’t be in the room when decisions are made to put American servicemen in harm’s way.

    • bsdetection> I don’t have any idea what or if you have any military experience or training, but the truth of the matter is that these IRTs are truly cowards, that lurk in the dark, hide in caves, move their bed from one place to another. They use their families as human shields, with the hopes that the nice and kind Americans will hesitate to shoot them while they hide behind women and children. You seem to like the fact that collateral damage is not a reality of this type of unconventional warfare and that it should not happen. But as I said many times you have to kill all of them, the entire family in order to end that branch from continually producing more terrorists. Extreme, yeah, but necessary in this type of warfare. Your kind heart will not help to save life in this case.

  • U.S. military officials told Reuters that Trump approved his first covert counterterrorism operation without sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup preparations.

  • come on news service tell the truth that the other radio news was saying, it was a setup and the enemy knew of the raid ahead of time and they were ambushed and yes the women were armed and shooting at our men and used there children as shields, it will come out what I said or maybe not.

    • It was also reported that Trump notified the enemy we were coming so an ambush could be set up knowing that a soldier killed would help enrage Americans and help us drop a Nuclear Bomb on Yemen…It will come out what I said or maybe not…#MAGA

    • …and compare “the 4000+ that were killed on 9/11” to the hundreds of thousands that were killed in the Middle East prior to and after 9/11. We’re talking 23 today, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The obvious question is, Why do we think we can stop terrorist killings by killing even more of their people? Are their survivors going to say, “Okay, I’ve had enough, you win,” or are they going to get angrier and seek revenge?

  • In yet another attempt to justify Trump’s bungled raid in Yemen and coverup the fact that it was executed without adequate intelligence, resources or backup plan, the U.S. Central Command posted video clips online, which it said were “a small sample of the sort of intelligence information that was obtained in the site exploitation mission.” But the clips were just another example of how the Trump administration lives in a world of “alternative facts” and lies to the American public, because it didn’t take long to discover that the “small sample of intelligence information” consisted of 10-year old video clips pulled from the internet.

    • Unfortunately our military families will again be thrust into harms way. If Mr. Trump knows how to make deals then how about he start using his expertise.
      So far his “tough talk” is not producing positive results. Only pissing people off.

    • you don’t know who is at fault Obama had the raid set up on a moonless night which was at this time when trump came in it was all set up so trump gave the go ahead so whos fault is it really it was nerobamas out order so I think someone in the nerobamas office spilled the beans so you cannot blame either president.

      • It was not “all set up.” Sources have indicated that it was deferred by Obama because the intelligence was lacking and backup planning was incomplete, not simply because they were waiting for a moonless night. And, even if it were “all set up,” are you suggesting that Trump’s excuse for the failure is that he really didn’t pay attention because he thought that Obama approved it?

      • Why didn’t Trump do his own homework??? He knows more than the Generals…How was Trump forced to use Odummies plans??? Who is forcing Trump to go against his Great Knowledge of the military??? These questions need to be answered…Whose controlling the President and forcing him to follow Obamas lead??? #MAGA

  • Although civilians and women and children were killed in this raid, these were likely family members of the Islamic militants who were being targeted as it is common for
    these militants to have their families with them. Such deaths then become impossible to avoid even though unintentional.
    The raid itself does not appear to have been very successful as the militants appear to have been prepared for the attack resulting in a fairly long firefight and involvement of
    US drone and air strikes either by jets or helicopters. Seal Team 6 attacks are almost always quick in and out military operations taking only minutes to complete.
    One fact of significance is the reported killing of Anwar Al-Awlaki’s eight year old daughter, an American citizen. Anwar Al-Awlaki was himself an American citizen who
    was a well known spokesman for Al Qaeda who was killed in an drone aircraft missile attack in September, 2011. Al-Awalki’s 18 year old son, Abdul rah man Al-Awlaki
    also an American citizen was killed along with many others in another drone aircraft missile attack two weeks later. The killing of the Al-Awlaki’s is highly significant as they were all American citizens who were never charged or convicted of any crimes but were killed anyway.
    The legal precedence of this is worrying in that it may mean that the government is now able to use lethal force against anyone citizen or not with no proof of a criminal act just on
    the suspicion that they pose a threat to national security no matter where they may be.
    The Al-Awlaki family must be concerned that the US government has now killed three of their family and seems to have it in for them all.

    • fiveo> nice commentary. Too bad for the Al-Awlaki family. Just because they are US citizens, doesn’t grant them immunity from being shot and killed. Very circumstantial case, if you resist, you die. If you surrender, you live. You want to profess your terrorist ideology, sorry for what happens. I really don’t look at this being a personal matter between the family and the USA.

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