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The Botched Yemen Raid

Trump ordered [1] 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 [2]. 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 Times report [3] 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 [4] 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.

19 Comments (Open | Close)

19 Comments To "The Botched Yemen Raid"

#1 Comment By victory over eurasia On February 2, 2017 @ 7:39 am

I suppose we’ll now have an intensive witch hunt from the House…?

Still, interesting that the military, who presumably still have operational responsibility, threw Trump under the bus so quickly. I would guess that relations are starting badly and will continue to deteriorate. Could bode ill for our pending invasion of Mexico…..

#2 Comment By Johann On February 2, 2017 @ 8:02 am

In Yemen, we are on the wrong side wrt the pro-Haidi vs Houti sides.

I am not impressed with the Navy Seals when it comes to blabbing about every mission, and they should NOT trust their duplicitous allies.

#3 Comment By Flynn’s Screw Up On February 2, 2017 @ 10:04 am

I hope it teaches Trump a lesson.

Just as Obamacare, Libya, and Syria were disasters, so too is what Obama was doing in Yemen.

Trump ought to be ending the Obama entanglement in Yemen, not protracting it. We didn’t elect Trump to aggravate the consequences of Obama’s bad decisions.

@Johann : “In Yemen, we are on the wrong side wrt the pro-Haidi vs Houti sides. “

We shouldn’t be on any side at all. We shouldn’t be in Yemen at all. Why in God’s name are we in YEMEN?

Is this the kind of thing we’re going to get from Flynn?

More Jimmy Carter-style botches that get Americans and innocent civilians killed, thanks to the advice of Flynn and his neocon mentors?

#4 Comment By collin On February 2, 2017 @ 11:36 am

I don’t to get to critical because Obama has been doing this stuff quite regularly although he was a lot quieter about it and probably more conservative in terms of the raids approved. It is apparent Obama passed/passed along although who knows the reason. And these raids will go bad from time to time. No reason to get political about it outside the question why we want to have anything to do with Yemen.

The most interesting aspect here is how quickly the military is blaming Trump here. It does not feel like a start to me.

#5 Comment By DanJ On February 2, 2017 @ 12:35 pm

If a raid was presented for approval as very important and a likely success then President Trump would approve. Any President would.

He is to fault only if it was presented to him as being too risky. Or if he has demanded more spectacular raids on short notice, something to top the raid that took out OBL.

But somehow I don’t think the military will bring knowingly high-risk ventures for the President to decide on just yet.

#6 Comment By AJ On February 2, 2017 @ 1:25 pm

There was a reluctance on the part of the media to cover events like this under Obama, now right away we get details on women and children casualties. We should have gotten them before. The media in its lack of coverage has been complicit in war crimes, and the Left was willing to go along well. How many candlelight vigils did we see under Obama?

#7 Comment By KevinS On February 2, 2017 @ 2:17 pm

How many congressional investigations are we likely to see. My guess: 0. But maybe there are some more Benghazi investigations coming….

#8 Comment By J Harlan On February 2, 2017 @ 2:19 pm

“Here Mr. President we have a mission that we don’t think will work…could you approve it please?” or

“Hey SECDEF could get some guys to attack XF 4567 9802 tomorrow by 1000…don’t worry about intel?”

Neither? How about “Special Ops” are supposed to be risky and crucially important which is why they should be rare instead of so routine the US needs 70,000 SOF people and approving them is so regular that not enough thought is given to the risk?

#9 Comment By Fran Macadam On February 2, 2017 @ 3:14 pm

The existing military-industrial permanent power structure would have advised this operation. A guy with TV ratings expertise about Arnold’s declining ratings would have deferred to their cachet, as would most civilian Americans. It reminds me of Kennedy getting sandbagged by the Bay of Pigs operation already in the works. How to push back is fraught with its own perils.

#10 Comment By cka2nd On February 2, 2017 @ 3:37 pm

Flynn’s Screw Up says: “More Jimmy Carter-style botches that get Americans and innocent civilians killed”

Aside from funding a civil war in Afghanistan with the intent of dragging the Soviet Union into a Vietnam-like quagmire and deregulating the airline and trucking industries, which “botches” did Jimmy Carter commit that got other “Americans and innocent civilians killed?”

#11 Comment By strike one On February 2, 2017 @ 4:01 pm

“which “botches” did Jimmy Carter commit that got other “Americans and innocent civilians killed?””



8 dead Americans. 1 dead Iranian.

#12 Comment By Jeff C-C On February 2, 2017 @ 4:19 pm

However it happened, President Trump owned it. He personally called the family and talked to the wife, children, and his father. He flew quietly to Dover AFB for the transfer ceremony (of the remains). This event will give him great pause, and respect, as he is told to consider future missions.

#13 Comment By Jeff C-C On February 2, 2017 @ 4:21 pm

That is not, of course, to say that this is anything but tragic. Just that our new president is owning the consequences of his actions.

#14 Comment By a spencer On February 3, 2017 @ 2:39 am

Jeff C-C,

Its called a “photo op”.

#15 Comment By Joao Alfaiate On February 3, 2017 @ 9:43 am

Someday I hope we have a military able to defeat goat herders with AK-47s.

#16 Comment By Charly M On February 3, 2017 @ 3:42 pm

Jeff C-C, of course it will give President Trump pause, and respect. When has President Trump responded to adversity with anything but pause and respect? He is not, after all, the kind of guy to fly off the handle and go grabbing the next issue without thinking things through.

#17 Comment By EliteCommInc. On February 3, 2017 @ 4:29 pm

I have to stand where i came in on this matter.

Of course ultimately the Pres of the US is accountable for any and all actions of the US military.

But blaming him for poor intelligence on the ground, and a compromised mission is hardly his fault. That’s why we have a professional military. He is dependent on their expertise. If they make an error, by going forward on a mission they know is compromised, unless the Pres told them to do based on that info. It’s a very tough sell that the mission failure, if that’s what it was rests on him.

And I remain concerned that the military seems to be engaged in after action reports with the press.

What occurred in the deserts of Iran bear little resemblance to this incident.

#18 Comment By cka2nd On February 3, 2017 @ 4:47 pm

Thank you, strike one. I had forgotten how high the casualties were on that mission.

#19 Comment By J Harlan On February 6, 2017 @ 10:18 am

Of more concern should be stories of “female fighters in prepared positions”. Does DOD really expect that story to stick? As usual the coverup will do more harm than the actual error.