Saturday, February 11, 2017

President Trump’s First Act as Commander-in-Chief

By Jim Emerson, staff writer

On his fifth day in the oval office, President Trump, over dinner with Secretary of Defense Mattis and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was presented with the first of many life-or-death decisions he will be required make. The mission presented to the President for his approval involved a raid on the small, heavily guarded brick home of a senior Qaeda collaborator in a mountainous village in a remote part of central Yemen.

Mr. Obama’s national security aides had reviewed the plans but Obama would not approve the mission because the Pentagon wanted to launch the attack on a moonless night and the next one would come after his term had ended. The purpose of the mission was to capture computers, cellphones and other intelligence containing apparatus from an al Qaeda camp near a mountain village.

President Trump, however, approved the mission.

The raiders consisted of commandos from the United Arab Emirates and Navy SEALS from SEAL Team 6. The operation had been planned and prepared for months. The mission was part of a long, multinational campaign to weaken the foothold of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), long considered one of the most dangerous arms of the terrorist organization. 

Tragically, what should have been a well-rehearsed mission was compromised. It may have been a barking dog, or a crashed drone or radio chatter. Via area communications intercept the attackers learned that the mission was compromised, but pressed on toward their target. Military Intelligence sources confirmed that the terrorists were aware that they were the target of the early morning raid. A firefight resulted in the heavy loss of life. The SEALS and the UAE Commandos walked into an ambush. 

The fifty-minute firefight involved Harrier jets, helicopter gunships and gun-wielding jihadi women. The special operators began to take casualties. Chief Petty Officer William "Ryan" Owens, a veteran member of the elite team would die of his wounds. A MV-22 was called in for a medivac but a hard landing damaged the aircraft and injured several of its passengers. The team still managed to capture communications equipment and killed several AQAP leaders. Whether the operation was successful or not depends on the value of the intelligence gained from the captured material.

As a result of civilian casualties in the raid the Yemeni President has withdrawn permission for the United States to conduct Special Operations ground missions against suspected terrorist groups within the country.

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