Yemen said yesterday it had not suspended counter-terrorism operations with the US government, despite controversy over a US commando raid on Al Qaeda militants in which several civilians were also killed.
The raid in al-Bayda province, approved by new US President Donald Trump, resulted in a gun battle that left one Navy SEAL dead and an American aircraft a charred wreck.
Local medics said several women and children were killed.
Yemeni officials told Reuters that Sanaa had not withdrawn its permission for the United States to carry out special operations ground missions but had made clear their “reservations” about the last operation.
A statement by the Yemeni embassy in Washington said the government “stresses that it has not suspended any programmes with regards to counterterrorism operations in Yemen with the United States Government”.
The Yemeni government “reiterates its firm position that any counterterrorism operations carried out in Yemen should continue to be in consultation with Yemeni authorities and have precautionary measures to prevent civilian casualties.”
Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has met with the US ambassador to Yemen and “made clear his reservations about the problems with the last operation,” a senior Yemeni official told Reuters.
US defence officials said they were investigating the reports of civilian casualties in the raid.
US Senator John McCain criticised the operation, telling NBC news on Tuesday: “When you lose a $75mn airplane and, more importantly, an American life is lost I don’t believe you can call it a success.”
But White House spokesman Sean Spicer defended the operation on Wednesday, calling it “absolutely a success.”
“I think anybody who undermines the success of that raid, owes an apology and disservice to the life of Chief Owens,” Spicer said, referring to the Navy SEAL who died.
The Yemeni government has supported a US campaign against the country’s powerful Al Qaeda branch for more than a decade.
The State Department said the United States would continue working with Hadi “and his representatives to ensure that this important partnership remains solid in order to ultimately eradicate” Al Qaeda and Islamic State from Yemen.
The January 29 commando raid was only the second publicly acknowledged ground attack by US forces in Yemen.
US military officials told Reuters last week that the recent operation went ahead without sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup preparations.
As a result, three officials said, the attacking SEAL team found itself dropping onto a reinforced Al Qaeda base defended by landmines, snipers, and a larger than expected contingent of heavily armed Islamist extremists.
But the US military’s Central Command said last week that it only asks for operations it believes have a good chance of success based on its planning.
A White House official has said the operation was thoroughly vetted by the previous administration and that the previous defence secretary had signed off on it in January.
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