President Donald Trump has shown blatant disregard for intelligence briefings time and again, a ridiculous approach that cost the life of a Navy SEAL during the very first counter-terrorism strike carried out under his regime.
The operation, carried out in Yemen, was a disaster that was put in to action without sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup preparations.
The attacking SEAL team found itself dropping onto a reinforced al-Qaida base defended by land-mines, snipers and a larger-than-expected contingent of heavily armed Islamist extremists.
An elite Special Operations air regiment was sent in to pull the team and its casualties out under heavy fire.
The unfortunate incident ended with U.S. Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens' death.
"Americans are saddened this morning with news that a life of a heroic service member has been taken in our fight against the evil of radical Islamic terrorism," the president said in a statement.
A White House official said the operation was thoroughly vetted by the previous administration and that the previous defense secretary had signed off on it in January. The raid was delayed for operational reasons, he added.
The information (read intelligence) gathered by the U.S. was apparently 10-years-old.
However, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Defense Department spokesman, stuck by the Pentagon's main argument: Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula remains dangerous and wants to recruit and train people to attack the West.
"Even though the video is old, it shows their intent," he told reporters.
The U.S. military is looking into whether more civilians were killed in a raid on al-Qaida terrorists during the operation. Medics on the ground claim about 30 people, including 10 women and children, were also killed.
U.S. Central Command claims an investigating team had "concluded regrettably that civilian non-combatants were likely killed" during the raid, adding that children may have been among the casualties.
Among the dead was the 8-year-old, U.S.-born daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, a militant killed by a 2011 U.S. drone strike.
"She was hit with a bullet in her neck and suffered for two hours," her grandfather told Reuters. "Why kill children? This is the new (U.S.) administration — it's very sad, a big crime."
They also added that the team "seeks to determine if there were any still-undetected civilian casualties in the ferocious firefight."
The U.S. officials said the extremists’ base had been identified as a target before the Obama administration left office on Jan. 20, but then-President Barack Obama held off approving a raid ahead of his departure.
A White House official said the operation was thoroughly vetted by the previous administration and that the previous defense secretary had signed off on it in January. The raid was delayed for operational reasons, the White House official said.
Obama admin repeatedly considered Trump's Yemen raid but "intel was not judged strong enough to justify the risks" https://t.co/uMfxdHXBI5— Jon Swaine (@jonswaine) February 1, 2017
Trump approved his first covert CT op without sufficient intel, ground support or adequate backup preparations https://t.co/pZX3ORbkH9— Jason Leopold (@JasonLeopold) February 2, 2017
#YemenRaid should scare and terrify everybody b/c its proof Trump will be led by Flynn and Bannon into hasty decisions that will backfire.— Kevin D. Grüssing (@KevDGrussing) February 2, 2017
The American elite forces did not seize any militants or take any prisoners offsite, but White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the raid yielded benefits.
"Knowing that we killed an estimated 14 AQAP members and that we gathered an unbelievable amount of intelligence that will prevent the potential deaths or attacks on American soil — is something that I think most service members understand, that that’s why they joined the service,” Spicer said.
In the two weeks following his election, then President–elect Trump received only two classified briefings making some think he was reluctant to take up the responsibilities of being the commander-in-chief of the world’s most powerful nation.
Officials in Trump’s transition team dismissed the concerns, saying he had been preoccupied with forming his cabinet, meeting with world leaders and filling key national security posts, which they claim were his “No. 1 priority.”
“The president-elect is missing out on a golden opportunity to learn about the national security threats and challenges facing our nation,” said Michael Morell, former deputy CIA director at the time.
“Knowledge that would be extremely valuable to have when he takes the oath of office and when he steps into the Situation Room for the first time," he added.
The Trump administration’s first — and definitely botched — international operation certainly adds weight to Morell's words.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Jonathan Ernst