Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Yemen Strike

This information on Yemen was in my last Weekend Data Dump but with updates seemed like it should have its own post, given further updates.

American special forces conducted a ground raid on al Qaeda targets in Yemen, backed by attack helicopters. We lost one operator. The raid is odd. Why not an air strike? Were we trying to capture someone?

For real yucks, we got a "fake news" Gordie Howe hat trick: "A provincial official said the helicopters targeted a hospital, school and mosque." What? No puppy and kitten shelter targeted, too?

Subsequent news said we were seeking information and we got it. I assume we grabbed laptops and whatnot. No word on the type of special forces. Was there a carrier large or small nearby or was the base in Djibouti the source of the aircraft?

This was a SEAL raid and the aircraft lost was an Osprey. We did grab electronic devices.

The Makin Island amphibious group is in 5th fleet. So it could have been sea-based. But the target site is also close to our special operations base in Djibouti.The Makin Island and their Marine contingent were recently at Djibouti practicing a raid on an enemy communications facility, which sounds an awful lot like a rehearsal for the Yemen mission.

The group has V-22s and gunships (early reports could be wrong on saying Apache helicopter gunships rather than Marine Cobras were involved). So I suspect this was a mission carried out by the Makin Island group from the sea.

And we resumed our usual programming with a drone strike in Yemen. I suspect that was a rapid intel evaluation from material seized in the raid. That's standard operating procedure for such intel raids.

The casualty notice confirms that this was a SEAL raid. They weren't mentioned in the article on the training exercise, but SEALs are a natural complement for a Marine unit aboard Navy vessels.

Other news I heard said that the wounded were from a hard landing by a V-22, which led to the destruction of the aircraft in place by our forces.

Also, you have to love jihadi views on women. Driving cars? No. Letting sunlight hit your exposed skin? No. Have a civilian job? No. Fight American SEALs? You go, girl!

That story says that 3 personnel were wounded in combat plus 3 wounded in the hard landing.

Perhaps in response to the raid, Iranian-backed Houthis have hit a Saudi warship, although the means are under dispute:

Saudi Arabia confirmed a Houthi militant attack that killed two Saudi sailors on Monday.

"A Saudi frigate on patrol west of the port city of Hodeida was hit by a terrorist attack from three suicide boats belonging to the Houthi militias," Saudi state media said, according to Reuters.

However, the Saudis and Iranian media disagree on whether a missile or bomb-laden boat carried out the attack.

While we hit Houthi radars in response to anti-ship missiles fired by them at our Navy (unsuccessfully) recently, since the attack was filmed by a small boat the attack could have been from another small boat firing an anti-tank missile with direct line of sight. So the Houthis would not need a targeting radar, I suppose, for a bigger anti-ship missile. I honestly don't know what an anti-tank missile explosion would look like. Or a radar could be back online.

I suspect a missile of some type since jihadis tend to boast about suicide attacks.

Which then begs the question of whether the Saudi ship has point defenses like Phalanx.

UPDATE: A news report on TV says the attack was a suicide attack. Was the attack intended for an American ship? I did hear the narrator of the attack video mention America, but he also cried death to Israel and Jews in general, so I don't believe that cry indicates the attackers mistakenly believed they were hitting an American ship.

UPDATE: I'm going to want more evidence than a routine jihadi chant to believe the attackers thought they were attacking an American warship. The Houthis and Iranians see Saudi Arabia as an enemy, too. And we don't need to know whether those guys intended to attack an American or Saudi ship to deal with them directly or indirectly.

UPDATE: The Saudis say that the frigate suffered 2 dead and 3 wounded in the attack, and that the ship continued its duties after the attack. They further say they "dealt with" the attackers (there were three boats that approached the ship). That had to have been a small explosion, no? Or one that was somewhat near but not in contact with the ship?

UPDATE: This was a difficult and risky mission and a lot of things went wrong. It was a joint American/UAE mission planned well before this year (and see the link above on what was clearly a training dry run in Djibouti for this mission) but requiring a dark night that wouldn't happen until the night the raid was launched. There were civilian casualties but the al Qaeda terrorists used civilians as shields as they took up positions to fight the raiders who lost the element of surprise. For a lot of militaries this would have been a debacle. We got out with the information we sought at the cost of 1 KIA, 6 WIA, and a destroyed Osprey. If that's the worst debacle our military has we're good to go.

UPDATE: So we have been bombarding jihadis in Yemen for 5 days now with cannons and rockets fired by our warships?

If so, that began at about the time of the raid. So while some of the strikes since the raid were no doubt enabled by intelligence gathered from the electronic devices we captured in the raid, some had to be from pre-raid intelligence and surveillance.

UPDATE: Now there is sniping that the planning was lousy and Trump is to blame?

As I wrote above, if this is the worse we achieve we'll be just fine. Casualty-free combat is a rare thing indeed even for special operators carrying out a dangerous mission.

The mission was planned under the Obama administration and approved by Trump on recommendation by the military brass. The commander on the ground felt the mission could continue despite loss of surprise. And we did grab the information we went in to get, it seems. We lost a SEAL sailor which is unfortunate, but that does not mean the mission failed.

I'm not sitting here blaming Obama for bad planning. It would be easy to assert--without evidence--that Obama set Trump up for failure with this administration-spanning mission. But that would be as wrong as blame-gaming Trump.

By all means, look at what went wrong to lose the element of surprise in this raid. But stop turning partisanship to 11 for everything.

UPDATE: Ah, I see a former Obama official is condemning the raid and says President Obama refused to order the raid because it was too poorly planned. Which contradicts earlier stories cited above that said the delay to the next administration was because the raiders needed a moonless night.

And in a bonus double-standard detail, Human Rights Watch demands America compensate families who lost lives in the raid. If al Qaeda used those dead civilians as human shields as reports above say, al Qaeda is the party legally respsonsible for civilian deaths.

And more broadly, has HRW ever demanded that jihadis pay compensation to the deliberately killed victims of jihadi terror?

UPDATE: The USS Cole is patrolling off of Yemen. Struck by a jihadi suicide boat in 2000 while in a Yemen port, the captain of this ship will not be the second commander to let a suicide boat get anywhere near this ship. I'm guessing "asking questions" will happen much later in the after-action review following the "shoot first" part of any reaction to potential danger.

UPDATE: America denies our Navy is carrying out the bombardment from the sea.