The Yemen raid is looking more and more like a complete disaster
The botched covert U.S. military raid in Yemen last month, which resulted in the deaths of one American soldier and more than a dozen civilians, including nine children, did not yield any useful intelligence, according to anonymous senior U.S. officials who spoke to NBC News.
NBC News’ report is the latest in a series of damning revelations that shed further light on Donald Trump’s first ordered military raid as president, and again contradicts the White House’s position that the raid was a success.
Despite facing growing criticism over how his administration handled the raid, Trump has insisted the mission was a success. He repeated that position to Fox News on Tuesday, but notably put some distance between the mission and his office, telling “Fox and Friends” that “according to General [James] Mattis, it was a very successful mission,” in which the military “got tremendous amounts of information.”
But senior officials who spoke with NBC News said they weren’t aware of any useful intelligence to come from the operation. And the military has thus far struggled to provide meaningful examples to the public that back up its claims the mission was a success, avoiding greater publicity after CENTCOM mistakenly released a 9-year-old video meant to illustrate some of the “sensitive” information captured during the raid.
Over the weekend, the father of the slain soldier, Navy SEAL Ryan Owens, spoke critically of the president and the operation that killed his son, and demanded a thorough investigation into what went wrong and why the doomed mission had been approved in the first place.
“Why at this time did there have to be this stupid mission when it wasn’t even barely a week into [Trump’s] administration?” Bill Owens told the Miami Herald on Friday. “For two years prior … everything was missiles and drones [in Yemen]… Now all of a sudden we had to make this grand display?”
Owens also took issue with the administration position that critics of the raid were tarnishing his son’s memory.
“Don’t hide behind my son’s death to prevent an investigation,” he told the Herald.
Trump’s administration can’t seem to shake the failure of his first ordered raid, which one official described to NBC News as a mission in which “almost everything went wrong.”
The mission saw the first military member killed under Trump’s watch and also resulted in the death of an 8-year-old American citizen, the daughter of al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in a raid five years ago, and at least 14 civilians, including nine children.
Plans for the Yemen operation began during the Obama administration, but the 44th president ultimately declined to sign off on it during his term. Five days after taking office, Trump signed off on the mission, reportedly over dinner with Defense Secretary James Mattis, top adviser Steve Bannon and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
U.S. military officials told Reuters that Trump approved the mission without adequate intelligence information, backup preparations, or knowledge of the extent of the risks.
Further adding to the controversy and confusion surrounding the raid, Trump was reportedly not even in the situation room when the raid was taking place. About a half hour into the Navy SEAL operation, his personal Twitter account was updated with a since-deleted tweet promoting an upcoming appearance on the Christian Broadcasting Network.
On Tuesday, amid growing pressure, President Trump appeared to duck responsibility for the raid that he had authorized.
“This was a mission that started before I got here,” Trump told “Fox and Friends” co-host Steve Doocy. “This is something that they [former president Obama’s generals] wanted to do. They came to see me; they explained what they wanted to do.”
— FoxNewsInsider (@FoxNewsInsider) February 28, 2017
On Monday, the Pentagon confirmed that investigations regarding the covert raid in Yemen were underway. “There already are multiple investigations going on about this,” said Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis.
WATCH: Press secretary Sean Spicer on the raid.
Cover: (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)