President Donald Trump made a surprise, unannounced trip on Wednesday to honour the return of slain US Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens.
Owens died during a raid on al Qaeda in Yemen, along with about 30 civilians and 14 members of al Qaeda. Three other Navy SEALs were wounded in the raid, and a $70 million MV-22 Osprey belonging to a Marine quick-reaction rescue force had to be destroyed.
Trump issued a statement after the news of Owens’ death expressing his sorrow and praising the bravery of the US service members who gathered “important intelligence that will assist the US in preventing terrorism against its citizens and people around the world.”
Trump was said to have had a long phone call with Owens’ family. Owens represents the first combat loss during Trump’s presidency.
“You never want to call something a success 100% when someone is hurt or killed” Whitehouse spokesperson Sean Spicer said of the raid in Yemen at a press conference on Wednesday.
However, an unnamed official told NBC News that “almost everything went wrong,” with the raid. The official described the death of an 8-year-old girl, several other civilians, the burning of a house, and the intentional destruction of a $70 million Osprey helicopter.
According to Bill Roggio, editor of the Long War Journal, raids like the one in Yemen have been common under Obama, and will likely continue as situations call for them under Trump.
Roggio told Business Insider that the US had taken out prominent al Qaeda figures in Yemen leading up to the raid, and that the al Qaeda branch in Yemen had indeed been plotting attacks on the US.
“This is a branch that’s at the forefront of launching plots to blow up airlines and attack Americans. They have a bomb maker, Ibrahim al Asiri who has designed some complicated bombs and directed attacks against the US,” Roggio told Business Insider.
Despite the steep civilian and US losses incurred in the raid, Roggio said whether or not the raid was successful all depends on the intelligence gained by the US as a result.
Roggio said that the US monitors terrorists via drones and their online presences, but “you can only get so much from that, and they know what they’re doing.”
“If you really want to know what’s on their hard drive, you have to confiscate it,” said Roggio.
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