Angry at civilian casualties incurred recently in the first commando raid authorised by President Donald Trump, Yemen has withdrawn permission to the US to run ground operations on its soil, a media report said on Wednesday. Grisly photographs of children apparently killed in the crossfire of a 50-minute firefight during the raid caused outrage in Yemen, New York Times quoted US officials in its report. A member of the Navy’s SEAL Team 6, Chief Petty Officer William Owens, was also killed in the operation. While the White House continues to insist that the attack was a “success”, the suspension of commando operations is a setback for Trump, who has made it clear he plans to take a far more aggressive approach against Islamic militants.
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It was unclear if Yemen’s decision to halt the ground attacks was also influenced by Trump’s inclusion of the country on his list of nations from which he wants to temporarily suspend all immigration, an executive order that is now being challenged in the federal courts. It also calls into question whether the Pentagon would receive permission from the President for far more autonomy in selecting and executing its counterterrorism missions in Yemen.
The White House continued its defence of the raid on Tuesday, making no reference to the Yemeni reaction. Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, denied reports that the purpose of the attack was to capture or kill any specific Al Qaeda leader.
“The raid that was conducted in Yemen was an intelligence-gathering raid,” he said. “That’s what it was. It was highly successful. It achieved the purpose it was going to get, save the loss of life that we suffered and the injuries that occurred.”
Neither the White House nor the Yemenis have publicly announced the suspension. Pentagon spokesmen declined to comment, but other military and civilian officials confirmed that Yemen’s reaction had been strong.