White House spokesman Sean Spicer again defended President Donald Trump’s first significant military action, a raid on Al Qaeda forces in Yemen that resulted in the deaths of a Navy SEAL, an eight-year-old girl, 14 al Qaeda militants, and about 30 other civilians.
“It’s absolutely a success,” said Spicer, who later described it as a “huge success.”
Spicer went on to say that anyone questioning the success of the raid, including Senator John McCain who at one point called the raid a “failure,” simply doesn’t understand the stakes.
“I think anyone who undermines the success of that raid owes an apology and a disservice to the life of Chief Owens,” said Spicer. “The raid, the action that was taken in Yemen was a huge success. American lives will be saved because of it. Future attacks will be prevented.”
Spicer’s comments clash with an NBC report that the raid intended to take out al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula’s leader Qassim Al-Rimi, who survived the raid and later mocked Trump on an audio recording. The NBC report quotes a senior military official as saying “almost everything went wrong” with the dead-of-night raid where a $70 million MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft suffered a hard landing and then had to be destroyed in place by a US Marine Corps Harrier jet.
In a statement on Tuesday, McCain walked back his “failure” remark but continued to challenge the success of the raid. “I would not describe any operation that results in the loss of American life as a success,” said McCain.
Bill Roggio, editor of the Foundation for Defence of Democracies’ Long War Journal, previously told Business Insider that al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen does ultimately pose a threat a threat abroad as it is at the forefront of planning international attacks.
“This is a branch that’s at the forefront of launching plots to blow up airliners and attack airlines,” said Roggio, who also pointed out that the branch’s “primary goal isn’t to attack us. Their primary goal is to take over these countries and to establish local Islamic states.”
Spicer has repeatedly said valuable information gained in the raid would save the lives of Americans and justifies the tremendous human and financial cost of the mission.
Roggio declined to evaluate the success or failure of the operation, saying it would be “hard to know” if the mission was worth it or not without seeing the intelligence recovered — “and we’re never going to see it,” said Roggio.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.