Despite the growing reports of failure – and despite the death of a Navy SEAL, and the destruction of a $70 million Osprey aircraft – Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer has continued to insist that the mission was a “successful operation by all standards.”
by Namir Shabibi and Nasser al Sane
Part 2 - Civilian deaths can provide ‘recruitment tool’ for terrorists
This is by no means the first US counter-terror operation in Yemen which has killed civilians. Each one has stoked more resentment among the population. Yemeni foreign minister, Abdul Malik al Mekhlafi, said on his official Twitter account that the deaths amounted to “extrajudicial killings.”
A campaign statement by Donald Trump suggests the new leader of the free world may view such civilian casualties as inevitable, or even necessary. “The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families,” he said in December. “When they say they don’t care about their lives, you have to take out their families.”
Trump’s statement led to speculation that women and children might be deliberately targeted by the US. But Stephen Seche, who was US ambassador to Yemen from 2007-10, told the Bureau he did not believe America had changed its attitude towards protecting civilians. However “the enormous cost in human life” from this particular raid would damage the legitimacy of American intervention in Yemen, he told the Bureau. “It’s a horrific calculation to have to make and the outcome in this case turned out to be as bad as one can imagine it being.”
Far from delivering a blow to AQAP, the raid may have strengthened it. “Groups like AQAP will contend [this attack] shows Trump is making good on his campaign pledge,” said Letta Tayler, Terrorism and Counterterrorism Researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Even if Trump wasn’t serious, armed extremists are likely to jump on every photo of a Yemeni child killed in a US strike as a recruitment tool.”
“The use of US soldiers, high civilian casualties and disregard for local tribal and political dynamics… plays into AQAP’s narrative of defending Muslims against the West and could increase anti-US sentiment and with it AQAP’s pool of recruits,” said International Crisis Group in a report released three days after the attack.
The alleged target of the raid certainly appeared to think it had helped AQAP’s cause, releasing a message on February 5 mocking the US. “The fool of the White House got slapped,” said al Raymi in an audio recording which military sources said was authentic, reported NBC.
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