The first military operation Donald Trump has authorized as President ended in disaster on Sunday in Yemen, resulting in the death of Chief Petty Officer William Owens and 14 Yemeni people, including 8-year-old Nawar al-Awlaki
The mission, which according to the Guardian, had been previously “pocket vetoed” by President Obama, was conducted in order to gather intelligence on suspected operations by al-Qaida in the Arabian peninsula.
Things took a turn for the worst when the Navy Seal’s V-22 Osprey helicopter-airplane hybrid crashed and had to be destroyed.
“Everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong.” said national security expert Juliette Kayyem on Boston Public Radio Wednesday.
Kayyem sees this mission as being representative of two major changes the Trump administration has instituted for how military operations are handled. “One [change] is obviously much more operationally focused, to have special troops and special operations going in and literally put boots on the ground,” Kayyem said.
“The second aspect of this is giving much more operational authority to the Pentagon to make the decisions. There was a reason why, at least with President Obama, would have wanted White House oversight over how many special operations were occurring. Too many operations begin to look like a war,” Kayyem continued.
A preliminary inquiry will look into the loss of civilian life during the raid. As of now, Kayyem does not believe the mission's failure was a result of poor management. She does believe though that important questions need to be asked to prevent tragedies like this from happening again.
“Were the rules of engagement changed for this? If so, we can learn from this so we don’t put these guys and gals in harm's way. For example, I always thought that if you lost half your team because the helicopter went down, that you probably would have aborted. I was wondering, are there more aggressive operating procedures out there that are then going to risk our military people,” said Kayyem.
Kayyem says that this could be the beginning of a larger operational involvement with Yemen, which she called a “silent covert war.”
“I anticipate that we will have more actions like this,” said Kayyem.