The first military operation ordered by President Trump may have resulted in as many as 30 civilian deaths and the killing of an American commando, according to several reports questioning the intelligence behind the raid in Yemen.
U.S. military officials told Reuters that the operation was approved without sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup operations.
U.S. Navy Seal William “Ryan” Owens died in the raid, along with 14 militants. President Trump flew to Dover Air Base in Delaware on Wednesday to visit with Owens’s family.
Trump approved the early Sunday morning raid, but it had been being prepared under the Obama administration for months.
The New York Times reported that Obama’s national security aides had approved the plans for the risky attack, and that Obama had not acted because the military wanted to launch that attack on a moonless night. The next such dark night would have been after his term.
The Times and Washington Post have reported that just about everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong on the mission, and that it appears al Qaeda fighters in Yemen were tipped off to the approaching forces from the United States and United Arab Emirates.
The U.S. has acknowledged the civilian casualties.
U.S. Central Command said in a statement that a team investigating the incident had “concluded regrettably that civilian non-combatants were likely killed.”
Children may have also been among some of the civilians killed during the raid.
Central Command said it is looking to find out “if there were any still-undetected civilian casualties in the ferocious firefight.”
In addition to Owens’s death, three service members were injured in the raid. A fourth service member was also injured when a U.S. military aircraft assisting in the operation experienced a hard landing at a nearby location.
Trump declared the operation a success, and Centcom said it resulted in the capture of information that “will likely provide insight into the planning of future terror plots,” Centcom said.
But the civilian deaths and U.S. casualties have raised questions about whether enough questions were asked by Trump before he ordered the raid, as well as about the months of planning that went into the operation.