Donald Trump’s counter-terrorism strategy starts with a bang | The World Weekly
They came under cover of night. At two o'clock in the morning on Sunday, members of Navy Seal Team 6 landed in a village in a rugged area of central Yemen. The target: members of the Dhahab family, known for its ties to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) - the deadliest branch of the jihadi network once led by Osama bin Laden.
After an intense firefight - according to local sources, it lasted for almost an hour while airstrikes rained down - the bloody result emerged: fourteen al-Qaeda fighters, including the main target, Abdulrauf al-Dhahab, were killed as well as one navy sailor identified as William “Ryan” Owens, the Pentagon said. What is more, local reports said women and children were killed during the raid; US Centcom said civilians were “likely killed”. Three other US soldiers were wounded and one aircraft sent to evacuate them had to be destroyed after a “hard landing”, which injured two crew members, rendered it unable to fly.
This was President Donald Trump’s first authorised counter-terrorism operation, though planning had started under the previous administration. In a statement, the president called the operation “successful”, citing the killing of al-Qaeda members and capture of “important intelligence”. Mr. al-Dhabab “was instrumental” to the growth of a local al-Qaeda affiliate, Yemen analyst Fernando Carvajal told The World Weekly.
Drone strikes under Mr. Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama were increasingly accurate, especially during the past year, said Dr. Elisabeth Kendall, a senior fellow in Arabic at Oxford University who specialises in jihadi movements in Yemen. “Trump’s operation on Sunday seems like a botch by comparison,” she told TWW, and one that “is a sure way to stir hearts against the US and in sympathy of AQAP”.
US military officials speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity said President Trump had approved the covert operation without “sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup preparations”, which meant the Seal team encountered a reinforced al-Qaeda base. Mr. Carvajal said that if the al-Qaeda contingent had been tipped off, “it would indicate a leak” within the United Arab Emirates command in Yemen’s second city Aden, among Aden officials or from the US-backed government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
AQAP, which remains more powerful in Yemen than Islamic State, was behind various plots against the US, including the attempted bombing of a US-bound airliner on Christmas Day 2009 by the so-called “underwear bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.
Further sympathy for AQAP could prove problematic, since defeating Islamic State and other ‘radical Islamic terror groups’ will be the “highest priority” for the new administration. Dr. Kendall concluded that endangering civilian lives will “create a climate in which terrorist groups are not only able to recruit, but much more importantly, are able to secure the toleration of local populations more broadly”.