In January, President Donald Trump authorized a secret commando raid in Yemen which ultimately killed one U.S. soldier, Navy Seal Chief Petty Officer William Ryan Owens, and several civilians including some children caught in the crossfire of what turned into a 50-minute firefight.
Following the operation, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer declared the mission to be “a successful operation by all standards.”
But it would seem that Yemen’s government is more inclined to agree with Vietnam War hero Senator John McCain’s assessment in which he labeled the operation’s outcome a “failure.” On Tuesday Yemen’s government formally withdrew permissions for the U.S. to conduct ground operations inside its borders dealing a severe blow to the “War on Terror.”
The raid was originally presented to former President Obama’s administration, however, instead of leaving the new president to clean up a potential international incident, Obama decided to allow the new president and his administration to make the call on whether or not to proceed with the proposed mission.
According to reports, Trump along with Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, senior adviser Jared Kushner, and Senior presidential counselor Steve Bannon sat down and discussed the mission over dinner with Trump’s National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford. Trump did not go through the normal procedures associated with greenlighting a combat operation of this nature. Instead, he rushed the mission through without exploring all the potential ramifications.
Colin Kahal is a professor at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service, former Deputy Assistant to President Barack Obama, and former National Security Adviser to Vice President Joe Biden. Recently on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Kahal explained just how the Obama administration received the details of the proposed mission as well as outlined how the White House would generally make determinations on whether or not to greenlight military operations like Yemen.
Here’s part of the transcript from the Maddow interview.
‘MADDOW: When you say the recommendation was to provide information to the
incoming administration so they could run a deliberate process, is that a
term of art? What do you mean by deliberate process?
KAHL: Yes. So, we ran a very careful process where basically in a
Situation Room, senior officials from all different departments and
agencies, the Department of State, Department of Defense; the CIA, the
director of national intelligence, USAID, United States representative at
the U.N., we all sat around and discussed pressing issues of national
security. When our militaries involved in combat operations, or
counterterrorism operations, if they request an expansion of authority so
that they can do more, put more boots on the ground, take a more active
role in a combat situation, that`s precisely what we debate around the
The deputies then make a set of recommendations basically to the cabinet
who then make a set of recommendations to the president who oftentimes
convenes a national security council meeting to discuss it. That`s how we
ran the process. That`s now how Trump ran this process.’
Maddow then asked Kahl if Trump’s informal process was “out of keeping” with how military decisions were made by the Obama administration.
‘KAHL: Well, it is unusual, especially in the context where a raid like
this represents a significant escalation in the nature of our actions in
Yemen. So, it`s not just the raid itself. It`s that there`s a broader set
of authorities that are behind that that deserve deliberation. And what I
mean by that is, you need to have not just the Defense Department around
the table. You also need your intelligence professionals so that they can
vet the intelligence, to make sure that they agree with the risk assessment
the Pentagon is making. You also need the State Department at the table,
so they can go through the political implications, what happens if
civilians die, what are the implications for tribal relations in Yemen, or
the diplomatic relations.
You need the communicators in our room, so that you know that you`re on
message, and you can coordinate with your allies. You also need your
legislators in the room so you can notify Congress.
This is a deliberate process that you owe the president a holistic
assessment. And the problem is, even if you`ve got a bunch smart capable
people around a table at dinner, like Secretary Mattis who I think the
world of and Joe Dunford, our chairman of the Joint Chiefs, who`s an
amazing man, you need a fuller picture than those two gentlemen can provide
for the president to make a decision of this gravity. ‘
It now seems that Trump and his administration’s incompetence and carelessness not only cost a brave soldier his life, as well as, the lives of innocent civilians (among them several children), but this reaction by Yemen’s government could have devastating effects on U.S. Military operations throughout the rest of the region. Should other governments decide to take the same hard line against civilian casualties that are bound to happen in future military operations, the U.S. will wind up virtually unable to operate within the Middle East.
And seeing as Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other terrorist organizations are primarily run out of the Middle East, this may present a tiny problem for Trump’s plan to quickly and easily win the War on Terror. With the disastrous raid on top of his universally opposed Muslim ban, Trump is in danger of doing permanent damage to U.S.-Middle Eastern relations. And to think, he hasn’t even been in office a full month.
Featured image via (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)