Spokesman says operation was successful and anyone who claims otherwise is doing a disservice to slain operative.
The White House said on Wednesday that any criticism of a U.S. special forces raid in Yemen in which civilians were killed is an insult to the memory of the Navy Seal who died.
Spokesman Sean Spicer defended last month’s raid that resulted in the death of around 14 suspected Al Qaeda operatives, several civilians including children and Navy SEAL William Owens. The Jan. 29 raid—the first major counterterror operation of Trump’s presidency—also has prompted Yemen to rethink its cooperation with Washington.
“It’s absolutely a success and anyone who suggests it’s not does a disservice to Ryan Owens,” said Spicer.
Questions have been raised about whether the Trump administration adequately planned the raid—with the president reportedly approving the action over dinner.
Senator John McCain, a member of Trump’s Republican party, has called the raid a “failure.”
“The action that was taken in Yemen was a huge success,” said Spicer. “American lives will be saved because of it… future attacks will be prevented. I think any suggestion otherwise, is a disservice to his courageous life and the actions that he took, full stop.”
Spicer said valuable intelligence was gleaned from the operation and has rejected Al Qaeda’s mocking that the U.S. missed its target. He avoided questions about Yemen’s reported decision to bar U.S. ground operations.
“Yemen, more than most countries, understands the fight that we have with ISIS and I think we’re going to continue to work with them to strengthen our diplomatic relationship to understand our fight against terrorism,” said Spicer. He was referring to the Islamic State group, which has a small presence in the country, but is eclipsed by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
“We’re going to continue to work with them to combat ISIS and make sure we do that. I’m not in a position to go any further,” said Spicer.
A week ago, Trump made an unannounced visit to Dover Air Force Base to greet the casket of Owens, who became the first American killed in combat since he became commander-in-chief.