The father of a Navy Seal killed in a raid in Yemen last month has demanded an investigation into the planning and timing of what he called a “stupid mission”. The younger Owens was the only US fatality in the 29 January raid on a suspected al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula compound. Three US personnel were injured and the Pentagon said 14 militants were killed. One US aircraft was destroyed after being damaged on landing.
Trump approved the operation, which was conceived under the Obama administration, over dinner with advisers including his son-in-law, Jared Kushner; special adviser and former Breitbart executive Steve Bannon; the then national security adviser Mike Flynn; CIA director Mike Pompeo; and defense secretary Jim Mattis.
US military sources told the New York Times “everything went wrong” in the raid, which turned into an hour-long firefight.
On January 29, 2017, a United States-led Special Operations Forces operation was carried out in Yakla Village, Qifah District, in the Al Bayda province in central Yemen, during its Civil War. Authorized by President Donald Trump, its goal was to gather intelligence on al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and also, as claimed by unnamed sources, targeted the group's leader Qasim al-Raymi. The operation was the first commando raid authorized by President Trump, Planning for the operation began in early 2016 and was first presented to the U.S. National Security Council under the administration of Barack Obama. United States Central Command (CENTCOM) was involved with the Special Operations Command, which oversees global counter-terrorism military operations, and the CIA.
The US military reported that the raid had been planned "for months" and is "one in a series of aggressive actions against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen." The Obama administration refused to approve the raid; the Guardian reported that it had been reviewed several times, citing an anonymous government source. Colin Kahl, who served as Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor to the Vice President until January 2017, has publicly stated that "This particular raid was NOT discussed," but that it fell under an expanded plan to authorize military actions prepared by the Department of Defense. Further, Kahl stated, "Obama made no decisions on this before leaving office, believing it represented escalation of U.S. involvement in Yemen." In a report for the Washington Post, multiple defense sources stated they expected the Trump Administration to more readily approve similar operations.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis and General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, presented the plan over dinner at the White House, on 25 January 2017, to President Trump, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, and his political strategist Steve Bannon. President Trump approved the plan then and there. Michael Flynn, National Security Advisor to President Trump, was also at the dinner, but the decision did not go through the normal National Security Council (NSC) channels, through which heads or deputy heads of all agencies with a stake in the operation would be convened. US military officials stated that the assault went forth “without sufficient intelligence, ground support, or adequate backup preparations." At dawn on 29 January, several dozen United States Navy SEALs as well as elite soldiers from the United Arab Emirates were landed by MV-22 Tiltrotor aircraft near the home of Al-Qaeda leader Abdul Rauf al-Dhahab in the mountainous Yakla region of Al Bayda. While approaching, the soldiers were informed via a communications intercept that the Al-Qaeda forces had become aware of their position
At the village, the US-UAE team engaged in a heavy firefight with the Al Qaeda forces. US helicopter gunships and fighter aircraft also fired on the town. During the evacuation of the SEALs, a United States Marine Corps (USMC) Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey was damaged in a hard landing after losing power, injuring three additional commandos aboard. The Osprey was subsequently destroyed by a friendly airstrike. The operation severely damaged a local clinic, the mosque, and the school in the impoverished Yemeni village Yakla
The raid had been planned for months, and the Obama administration first considered and approved it late last year, multiple officials told CNN. But it was delayed for "operational reasons," according to Obama administration officials, who said he never signed off on this specific operation before leaving office.
Trump first learned about the plan from National Security Adviser Michael Flynn on the morning of January 25, five days after his inauguration, a White House official told CNN. At a dinner in the White House residence that evening, Trump gave his conditional go-ahead to his top military brass on the advice of Flynn, his defense secretary nominee James Mattis and Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He officially signed off on the plan a day later.
The raid was on an al Qaeda compound in Yemen's Al Bayda province and was considered relatively risky. The goal was to collect intelligence needed to aid future strikes against al Qaeda and prevent terror attacks, a military official said. The forces also hoped to target or gain intelligence to help find the leader of AQAP, Qassim al-Rimi, according to a senior US military official.
The raid involved elite US Navy SEALs and special forces from the UAE, with armed drones flying overhead in support, according to officials from several countries. But as forces approached the compound, they were detected and an intense firefight broke out. Chief Petty Officer William "Ryan" Owens was killed and three other SEALs were injured.
During the battle, al Qaeda fighters took up firing positions on the roof of a nearby building. As the US troops came under fire, they called in an airstrike against the building, which likely led to civilian casualties, military officials said.
But the raid appears to have achieved some of its goals. US Central Command said three senior AQAP officials were killed and valuable intelligence retrieved.