White House Calls Yemen Raid a 'Huge Success'; Criticism 'Disservice'
The Trump administration's top spokesperson called a raid in Yemen that resulted in the death of one Navy SEAL and the likely deaths of civilians a "huge success," and rebuked any criticism of the operation as a "disservice" to the fallen SEAL.
Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, earlier called the operation a "failure."
"It's absolutely a success and I think anyone who would suggest it's not a success does disservice to the life of Chief Ryan Owens," White House press secretary Sean Spicer said today during the daily press briefing.
"The life of Chief Ryan Owens was done in service to this country and we owe him and his family a great debt for the information that we received during that raid – I think any suggestion otherwise is a disservice to his courageous life and the actions that he took."
The raid last Saturday resulted in the death of Chief Petty Officer William "Ryan" Owens, 36, and the injury of three other Navy SEALS and three other service members. Fourteen al-Qaeda fighters were killed in the raid. U.S. Central Command said last Thursday that "civilian non-combatants likely were killed" and that may have included children.
Spicer's defense given today of the Yemen raid also slightly differed from his assessment last week.
"I think, it's hard to ever say something was successful when you lose a life," Spicer said then.
Yesterday, McCain told reporters the mission was a “failure” and said the Senate deserves answers about what happened in order to prevent future mistakes.
“Every military operation has objectives," Sen. McCain said in a follow-up statement yesterday. "And while many of the objectives of the recent raid in Yemen were met, I would not describe any operation that results in the loss of American life as a success.”
Officials told ABC News the raid was launched by the elite counterterrorism unit SEAL Team Six and was the first carried out with President Donald Trump's direct approval.
Citing American officials, the New York Times reported that the Yemen government withdrew its permission for the U.S. to conduct ground missions against terrorist in the area, because it was upset over the death of civilians in last weekend's raid.
But a U.S. Central Command spokesperson told ABC News that “nothing has changed” and they have not been “directed by anyone to stop conducting or planning operations in Yemen.”
According to the Associated Press, Yemen's foreign minister denied reports that his government has suspended U.S. ground operations, but said Yemen has asked for a "reassessment" of the raid.
“We are aware of reports indicating the Yemeni government requested a suspension of U.S. ground operations. We note that the Yemeni foreign minister has denied these reports." the acting spokesperson for the US State Department, Mark Toner, said in a statement.
During the press briefing at the White House today, Spicer said the U.S. is in touch with Yemen's government and that he would have more information on the situation later.
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