Trump's First Counter-Terrorism Operation Leads to U.S. Combat Death in Yemen

It's the first such death on the new president's watch.


Ibrahem Qasim

A U.S. commando died yesterday during the first counter-terrorism operation authorized by President Trump, The New York Times is reporting. The death marks the first combat death under the new administration. Three other Americans were wounded during the early morning raid against Al-Qaeda in the Bayda Province of Yemen. More than a dozen Al-Qaeda fighters are believed to be dead, including the brother-in-law of Anwar al-Awlaki, the late leader of Al-Qaeda in Yemen, and Abdulrauf al Dhahab, a top Al-Qaeda leader.

"In a successful raid against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) headquarters, brave U.S. forces were instrumental in killing an estimated 14 AQAP members and capturing important intelligence that will assist the U.S. in preventing terrorism against its citizens and people around the world," Trump said in a statement. "Americans are saddened this morning with news that a life of a heroic service member has been taken in our fight against the evil of radical Islamic terrorism. My deepest thoughts and humblest prayers are with the family of this fallen service member. I also pray for a quick and complete recovery for the brave service members who sustained injuries."

The military's Joint Special Operations Command had been planning a counter-terrorism operation for months under the Obama administration, but the decision to execute the mission was passed on to the presidential successor, according to the Times. Computer materials that might contain information about future terrorist plots were the main targets of the mission.

Per The Washington Post, reports of civilian casualties are being investigated. U.S. officials initially indicated that no civilian deaths could be confirmed, but a Yenemi official claims that at least eight women and seven children were killed during the raid, including the 8-year-old daughter of the late Anwar al-Awlaki.

Yemen has been embroiled in a civil war since 2015 between the Houthi rebels, a minority Shia group from the Northern region of Yemen, and President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. Saudi Arabia has been leading a military coalition in support of President Hadi, with logistical and intelligence support from the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. The U.S. has conducted several drone strikes on AQAP targets in the past.

According to the United Nations' Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 7,469 casualties and 40,483 injuries have occurred because of the conflict, though the number is likely higher due to underreporting caused by a lack of functioning health facilities. Saudi Arabia has been accused of violations by Human Rights Watch, which also condemned the United States in a recent report.

Meanwhile, Fox News reports that Trump has signed a directive ordering the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, to devise a plan within 30 days to defeat ISIS.