WASHINGTON – A bipartisan group of four senators have requested that the entire U.S. Senate be briefed on U.S. counterterrorism operations in Yemen, as details slowly emerge about the deadly U.S. raid there last month.
Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) requested “a classified briefing regarding our actions and objectives” in Yemen, citing concerns about a recent call by Yemen’s foreign minister for a “reassessment” of U.S. counterterrorism operations.
The lawmakers said that operations against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), thought to pose the largest threat of any affiliate to U.S. national security, “must remain a top priority.”
The lawmakers have been critical of U.S. military intervention in Yemen in the past, particularly toward U.S. support for the Saudi Arabia-led coalition supporting Yemen’s internationally recognized and exiled government under Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in the civil war against Iran-supported Houthis and supporters of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
“Events of the last two weeks underscore the complexity and the risks of our involvement in Yemen, and we believe a detailed report to Congress from the Department of Defense, Department of State, and the Intelligence Community about U.S. policy there is necessary,” the senators wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and acting Director of National Intelligence Michael Dempsey.
The Pentagon said the raid resulted in the capture of a trove of intelligence and the deaths of 14 al Qaeda fighters. The operation also resulted in the death of Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens. Two service members were wounded during the raid and three others were injured when an aircraft experienced a “hard landing” nearby. The aircraft could not be flown and was destroyed in place.
The White House has called the raid a “success” because of the intelligence gathered, and said that anyone who says otherwise owes an apology for disparaging Owens’ memory.
The raid also reportedly killed 15 women and children, according to Yemeni officials, reportedly including the 8-year-old daughter of American-born al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki. He was killed in a 2011 drone strike.
Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) requested in a letter to Mattis last week that the House Armed Services Committee be briefed on the Yemen raid.