President Donald Trump's first military operation seems to have been a disaster.
On Wednesday American military officials said that they were looking into how many civilians had been killed during a Sunday raid on an al Qaeda compound in Yemen, according to a report by Reuters on Thursday. U.S. Central Command released a statement admitting "regrettably that civilian non-combatants were likely killed" during the military operation, although the Pentagon also claimed that it had killed 14 terrorists. One American serviceman, Navy SEAL William "Ryan" Owens, was also killed, as was the 8-year-old daughter of notorious radical Islamic leader Anward al-Awlaki, who was himself killed by an American drone strike in 2011.
Early reports indicate that al-Qaeda operatives knew about the impending American attack in advance, perhaps by noticing that American drones were noisier and were flying lower than is normally the case, according to a report by The New York Times on Wednesday. Although American armed forces became aware of the fact that their mission had been compromised, they proceeded anyway, joined by military assistance from the United Arab Emirates. A firefight with al Qaeda ensued, and the military told The New York Times that because they often used women and children as cover, a disproportionate number of them wound up being killed (although some of the women, they allege, were also militants themselves).
Although military officials claim that the raid did yield valuable intelligence information, they also lost a $75 million MV-22 Osprey aircraft after it suffered a hard landing and needed to be destroyed by an airstrike.
The strike was initially planned during the final days of President Barack Obama's administration, but because the military wanted to conduct the raid during a moonless night, Obama felt the need to postpone it until after his term had ended. Because it is unclear what was said to President Trump before he signed off on the raid, it is difficult to determine his own level of responsibility for the raid's failure.