Less than 10 days after assuming his office as the 45th President of the US, Donald Trump authorized the first commando raid in Yemen against suspected terrorist groups in the Middle Eastern country.
However, because the US Special Operations ground missions caused a number of civilian casualties, it fuelled the anger of Yemeni population.
As a result, the Yemeni government has reportedly withdrawn its permission for the US to conduct further ground missions in the country. This report was confirmed by American officials, reports the New York Times.
Following the release of grisly photographs of children apparently killed in the crossfire of a 50-minute firefight during the raid caused outrage in Yemen.
A member of the Navy’s SEAL Team 6, Chief Petty Officer William Owens, was also killed in the operation.
While the White House continues to insist that the attack was a success, the suspension of commando operations is a setback for President Trump, who has made it clear he plans to take a far more aggressive approach against Islamic militants.
It also calls into question whether the Pentagon will receive permission from the President for far more autonomy in selecting and executing its counterterrorism missions in Yemen, which it sought, unsuccessfully, from President Barack Obama in the last months of his term.
An early test of Trump’s security decision-making
Obama deferred the decision to Trump, who appeared inclined to grant it. His approval of the January 29 raid came over a dinner four nights earlier with his top national security aides, rather than in the kind of rigorous review in the Situation Room that became fairly routine under Presidents George W. Bush and Obama.
The raid, in which just about everything went wrong, was an early test of Trump’s national security decision-making, and his willingness to rely on the assurances of his military advisers. His aides say that even though the decision was made over dinner, it had been fully vetted, and had the requisite legal approvals.
Trump will soon have to make a decision about the more general request by the Pentagon to allow more of such operations in Yemen without detailed, and often time-consuming, White House review.
It is unclear whether the US President will allow that, or how the series of mishaps that marked his first approval of such an operation may have altered his thinking about the human and political risks of similar operations.
The Pentagon has said that the main objective of the raid was to recover laptop computers, cellphones and other information that could help fill gaps in its understanding of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, whose leaders have tried to carry out at least three attacks on the United States. But it is unclear whether the information the commandos recovered will prove valuable.
On Trump’s list
It was also unclear if Yemen’s decision to halt the ground attacks was also influenced by Trump’s inclusion of the country on his list of nations from which he wants to temporarily suspend all immigration, an executive order that is now being challenged in the federal courts.
According to American civilian and military officials, the Yemeni ban on operations does not extend to military drone attacks and does not affect the handful of American military advisers who are providing intelligence support to the Yemenis and forces from the United Arab Emirates.
In 2014, Yemen’s government temporarily halted those drones from flying because of botched operations that also killed civilians. But later they quietly resumed, and in recent years they have been increasing in frequency, a sign of the fact that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, is considered one of the world’s most dangerous terrorist groups.
The raid stirred immediate outrage among Yemeni government officials, some of whom accused the Trump administration of not fully consulting with them before the mission.