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The Botched Yemen Raid

Trump ordered the raid on an Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) location in Yemen without adequate preparation and intelligence:

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

As a result, three officials said, the attacking SEAL team found itself dropping onto a reinforced al Qaeda base defended by landmines, snipers, and a larger than expected contingent of heavily armed Islamist extremists.

One Navy SEAL died in the attack. The raid also reportedly resulted in the deaths of as many as thirty women and children, including one girl who was a U.S. citizen. The number of civilians killed in the raid and the poor preparation raise some obvious questions: 1) if preparations were inadequate, why was the raid ordered when it was? 2) was the raid ordered in ignorance of the presence of so many civilians, or despite knowing they were there? 3) who among the president’s advisers recommended that the raid go forward despite inadequate preparation?

The Timesreport includes another important detail:

Qaeda fighters were somehow tipped off to the stealthy advance toward the village — perhaps by the whine of American drones that local tribal leaders said were flying lower and louder than usual.

Through a communications intercept, the commandos knew that the mission had been somehow compromised, but pressed on toward their target roughly five miles from where they had been flown into the area. “They kind of knew they were screwed from the beginning,” one former SEAL Team 6 official said.

There will presumably be an investigation to determine how this happened, and there may be another explanation, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the information reached AQAP from one of our “allies” that is currently busy wrecking Yemen. It would be useful to know which of the coalition governments besides the UAE knew about the raid. The coalition and pro-Hadi forces have been known to fight alongside AQAP in the war on Yemen since March 2015, and AQAP has flourished as much as it has during the war because the coalition hasn’t been interested in combating them. That is just one of the many reasons why the U.S. should never have supported their war and ought to halt its support now. Unfortunately, all indications are that U.S. support will continue and AQAP will continue to benefit from the upheaval.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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