U.S. Navy SEALs attempted a second raid in Yemen a month after the botched January mission that yielded no useful intelligence and killed dozens of civilians and SEAL team member William “Ryan” Owens.
The Intercept reported Thursday that a SEAL unit deployed to Yemen in early March on a mission targeting suspected al Qaeda operatives in the Arabian peninsula (AQAP), but aborted the maneuver at the last minute.
The previous operation — the first such mission conducted under the authorization of Pres. Donald Trump — cost the U.S. millions of dollars, including a $75 million aircraft that was damaged and had to be destroyed to keep it from falling into enemy hands.
“We lost a lot in this operation. We lost a valued operator, we had people wounded, we caused civilian casualties, lost an expensive aircraft,” said U.S. Central Command leader Gen. Joseph Votel to the Senate Armed Services Committee last week about the Jan. 29 raid on the village of al Ghayil.
An estimated 29 civilians were killed in the raid, in which U.S. forces were not given sufficient intelligence or adequate backup forces on the ground. Survivors from the village described a chaotic bloodbath in which anyone who moved or ran from a building — including women and children — was gunned down from helicopter gunships hovering overhead.
The March mission was ordered by the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which oversees SEAL operations, and was intended as a strike against AQAP operatives and facilities. There is currently no word as to why the mission was aborted.
“The U.S. military conducted more than 30 airstrikes against AQAP targets in three Yemeni provinces over two days in early March. A Pentagon spokesperson described the strikes as targeting ‘AQAP militants, equipment and infrastructure,'” wrote the Intercept’s Matthew Cole.
“On March 2, Yemeni media reported that U.S. forces were on the ground as the U.S. conducted airstrikes in the southern portion of the country,” said Cole.
Photos began to circulate online of boot prints in Yemen purportedly made by the type of boots worn by SEAL team members, which Yemenis have taken as evidence that U.S. forces were on the ground in their country.
Images circulating today of SOF boot prints in Yemen may seem trivial, but just show how easy it is to be compromised in these situations. pic.twitter.com/zd0E2F07ua
— Thomas Gibbons-Neff (@Tmgneff) March 3, 2017
Cole said, “SEAL Team 6 long maintained a clandestine presence in Yemen, working with CIA and the Yemeni government to track al Qaeda, until Washington withdrew all military and diplomatic personnel in 2015, when a U.S.-backed coalition led by Saudi Arabia began a bombing campaign against Houthi rebels and their allies. Ten thousand people have died in the conflict, according to the United Nations.”