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Slain SEAL's Father Calls for Expanded Investigation of Yemen Raid

Navy SEALs conduct training in a remote area. (US Navy / Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Martin L. Carey)
Navy SEALs conduct training in a remote area. (US Navy / Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Martin L. Carey)

The military has three separate investigations underway of last month's Yemen raid but nothing of the scope called for by the father of Navy SEAL William "Ryan" Owens, who was killed in the first combat action personally authorized by President Donald Trump, the Pentagon said Monday.

"I can only tell you what we're doing" in the way of looking into what happened on the Jan. 29 raid, said Capt. Jeff Davis, a Navy spokesman. He said the military is conducting an Article 15-6 fact-finding investigation by a senior officer of how the mission was carried out.

A separate aircraft mishap investigation is also underway on the loss of a Marine MV-22 Osprey, which had to be destroyed after a hard landing in which several members of the raid team were injured, Davis said.

A third investigation on civilian casualties from the raid is also underway, Davis said. According to the Pentagon, at least 14 civilians were killed in the mission, along with at least 16 militants.

The investigations do not deal with the planning of the mission, the decision-making process involved, or whether the operation was ordered in haste.

William Owens, father of Special Warfare Chief Petty Officer Owens, a member of Navy SEAL Team 6, said he wants a broader investigation to look into whether politics was involved in the decision to order the raid.

The elder Owens told the Miami Herald over the weekend that he had refused to meet with Trump during the ceremony at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware when his son's remains were returned.

"The government owes my son an investigation," he told the newspaper. "Don't hide behind my son's death to prevent an investigation."

"I'm sorry, I don't want to see him," Owens recalled telling a chaplain who had informed him that Trump was on his way from Washington. "I told them I don't want to meet the president."

The grieving father asked, "Why at this time did there have to be this stupid mission when it wasn't even barely a week into his administration? Why?"

The White House continues to defend the raid.

"I know that the mission has a lot of different critics, but it did yield a substantial amount of very important intel and resources that helped save American lives and other lives," Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the deputy White House press secretary, said on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday.

When asked if Trump would support an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Owens' death, Sanders said she had not spoken directly to the president about it but added, "I would imagine that he would be supportive of that."

U.S. Central Command and the White House have repeatedly called the raid against a compound of the Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula group (AQAP) a "success," in that the raid team took away computer discs and other intelligence material.

In addition to Owens' death, three other members of the raiding team were wounded in what CentCom has called a "ferocious firefight" against AQAP defenders, including female fighters.

In giving a timeline on the planning of the raid, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Feb. 2 that the planning was mostly done during the Obama administration but actual authorization for the raid was pushed off until after Trump was inaugurated to await a "moonless night."

Former Obama administration officials have pushed back on Spicer's account. Colin Kahl, a former security official in the Obama administration, disputes the "moonless night" scenario. He told The Wall Street Journal and other outlets that "no specific raid was discussed" while Obama was still president.

According to Spicer, CentCom submitted a plan for the Yemen raid to the Pentagon on Nov. 7, and the Pentagon approved it Dec. 19. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis reviewed the plan Jan. 24. On Jan. 25, then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn briefed Trump, Spicer said.

On Jan. 26, Trump authorized the plan after meeting over dinner at the White House with Mattis, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford and others, Spicer said.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.