Criticism of the first ground action authorized by President Trump, resulting in the death of an elite American solider, continued on Wednesday as Senator John McCain (R-Ariz) contradicted the administration’s “successful” assessment of the raid in Yemen.
Speaking to NBC news, McCain stated he “cannot call it a success…when you lose a $75 million airplane and, more importantly, an American life is lost.” Further expanding on mission details not originally disclosed, McCain claimed that a primary objective of the raid was to capture Qassim al-Rimi, the leader of AQAP, and as that perimeter was not met the mission objectives went unfulfilled. Asked whether the Senator from Arizona, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, will push for hearings he declined claiming that he had already been fully briefed on relevant mission details.
In quick response to McCain’s position, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told NBC, “anyone who undermines the success of that raid owes an apology and [does] a disservice…to the life of Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, who was killed in a firefight….he fought knowing what was at stake in that mission”.
On Thursday, President Trump responded in typical fashion, sending out a series of seething tweets directed to Sen. McCain and his criticism of the military classifying the mission as successful:
Rick Santorum, speaking to CNN on Thursday, found McCain’s criticism hypocritical. “To suggest that every time a raid is conducted when a civilian or military member is killed is ridiculous”, Santorum continued, “this is the politics that people deplore”.
Bill Burton, former Obama Deputy Press Secretary finds partisan hypocrisy in the Republican “willingness to walk away from Yemen raid” in comparison to their stance on Benghazi.
Santorum responded by highlighting the differences between the Yakla raid, representing a conventional military action where mission planning was approved by senior military commanders and pushed through the proper chain of command, and Benghazi’s losses due to oversight errors and alleged negligence at State. Santorum further suggested that losses in combat are an unfortunate product of the nature of war, whereas the event involving Benghazi was Secretary of State Clinton’s failure to deploy forces necessary to combat an attack.
Critics of the Trump administration have suggested that the disproportionate negative response to the official assessment of the raid may be due in part to a credibility gap between the media and White House, offering the controversial statements on inaugural crowd size and the severity of illegal voting as examples generating skepticism.
Regardless of the raid’s handling by politicians and the media, a Navy SEAL convoy spotted flying a Trump campaign flag during the immediate aftermath of the raid while traveling between training exercises in Kentucky last week suggests there is no such skepticism of the mission from their perspective.
– The Yakla Raid was the first military raid under the direction of the Trump administration during which American forces suffered a fatal causality.
– Planning for the operation began in early 2016 and was first presented to the U.S. National Security Council under the Obama administration.
– 24 Navy SEALs were involved.
– Over 30 American military personnel in a support role both on ground in air.
– 12 commandos from UAE and 6 from Yemen.
-14 AQ members killed, and as many as 15 civilians in an airstrike during the raid.
– During the firefight DEVGRU team member Owens was killed, along with the 8-year-old daughter of American-born Islamic terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki – a figure responsible for the radicalization of many in the west.
– Qassim Al-Rimi later released an audio recording taunting President Trump, alleging he was the target of the raid.