The Jan. 29 raid that killed the Navy SEAL son of a former South Florida police officer is currently the subject of three Pentagon investigations. But it remains to be seen whether any of those probes will satisfy Bill Owens’ demand to know why the raid took place just nine days into the Trump administration.
The Pentagon said on Monday that the military is conducting routine review into what led to the death of 36-year-old Sgt. William “Ryan” Owens, who was killed in a firefight with suspected terrorists in the first covert counterterrorism operation authorized by President Donald Trump.
Another investigation is reviewing how a $70 million aircraft was damaged so badly that it had to be destroyed.
And the Pentagon is also investigating reports that as many as 30 civilians were killed, including an 8-year-old girl, in the U.S. attack.
“There are three separate efforts looking at three different things as a result of that operation,” Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters on Monday. “They are all still in progress and we need to give those a chance to be completed and reviewed,” before any additional investigation will be launched.
Retired Fort Lauderdale detective Bill Owens called for an investigation into the circumstances of the Yemen raid in an interview with the Miami Herald.
I just want the truth. Bill Owens, father of Navy SEAL killed in Jan. 29 raid in Yemen
“Why at this time did there have to be this stupid mission when it wasn’t even barely a week into (Trump’s) administration?” he asked. “For two years prior, there were no boots on the ground in Yemen – everything was missiles and drones – because there was not a target worth one American life. Now, all of a sudden we had to make this grand display?’’
He refused to meet with Trump at Dover Air Force Base when his son’s body was returned to the United States.
[READ MORE: White House stands by Trump’s first military raid, despite civilian, U.S. casualties]
Davis said that it’s possible that the probe will evaluate the decision-making process behind the raid, but that he could not confirm that.
“We’re very comfortable with how the mission was executed and we’ll let the Department of Defense go through that review process and then see where that leads us,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said on Monday. “I think to get ahead of the three separate reviews. . . would be probably a little irresponsible at this time.”
The first of the investigations, known as a 15-6, is being undertaken by U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East. Such investigations usually take a few months.
I think anyone who undermines the success of that raid owes an apology and a disservice to the life of Chief Owens. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Feb. 8
U.S. Central Command is also conducting a civilian casualty credibility assessment. If it finds that the reports are credible, it will be followed by a more formal investigation. Earlier this month, it said in a statement that civilians “were likely killed” in the midst of the “ferocious firefight,” and that “casualties may include children.”
Local media and medics in the region reported 30 civilian casualties, including at least 10 women and children. The London-based human rights group Reprieve, which monitors civilian casualties of drone strikes, says it has evidence of 23 civilian casualties, including a newborn and 10 children.
A different military unit is conducting an aviation mishap investigation. An MV-22 Osprey, which had been sent in to evacuate the wounded from teh hour-long firefight that left Owens dead, crash-landed after losing power and injured two more service members. The damaged $70 million aircraft was later destroyed by a U.S. airstrike so it would not fall into the hands of the militants, according to the Pentagon.
The Trump administration has repeatedly insisted that the raid was a success, citing that 14 al Qaeda members were killed and valuable intelligence seized.
“I can tell him that on behalf of the president, his son died a hero and the information that he was able to help obtain through that raid, as I’ve said before, was going to save American lives,” Spicer said on Monday when asked about Owens’ criticism.
The White House has slammed critics of the raid, saying that questioning the success of the operation dishonors Owens’ memory.
“Don’t hide behind my son’s death to prevent an investigation,” the elder Owens told the Miami Herald. “The government owes my son an investigation.”
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Sunday that she believes the president will support a deeper investigation, though there was no repeat of that pledge on Monday.
Vera Bergengruen: 202-383-6036, @verambergen
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