The weekend raid by SEAL Team 6 forces into Yemen to target what was described as “al-Qaeda headquarters,” was championed by the administration as a great success in the initial wake of it, but subsequent accounts have instead shown a complete disaster, with losses among the attack US forces and substantial harm to civilians, virtually destroying the entire village and leading Yemen’s Foreign Minister to fault the attack as “extrajudicial killings.”
The attack on the village of Yakla didn’t target a “headquarters,” but rather the home of a person the US believed was an al-Qaeda “collaborator.” This would explain why the named casualties from reports were all from the same family, the in-laws of US-born cleric Anwar Awlaki, whose 8-year-old daughter was slain in the raid.
The raid was scheduled for a night with no moon to make the multi-mile ground raid into the village a total surprise. Locals knew long before the troops got there, however, saying there were more US surveillance drones than usual and they were flying lower than would be normal long before the attack. The SEALs knew their mission was compromised but went in anyway.
Without the element of surprise, locals had set up a substantial defense, taking up positions around the village. As troops attacked and called in airstrikes, women started picking up weapons and opening fire on the SEALs as well, leading to more airstrikes.
This turned a “secret” raid on one guy’s house into the obliteration of almost the whole village, and despite Pentagon claims of “14 al-Qaeda fighters killed,” local estimates put the overall death toll around 57, with a lot of women and children shot to death as the fighting went from bad to worse.
Though the administration is holding out hope that data seized during the raid will somehow vindicate the operation, the fact that the targeted “headquarters” was actually just a personal residence of a collaborator with an al-Qaeda affiliate makes hopes of a bin Laden-level of intelligence unlikely in the extreme.
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