A US defense official, however, told CNN that “nothing has changed” in terms of restrictions on American counterterrorism efforts. The defense official said Yemen officials were notified of last month’s raid before it happened.
And acting US State Department spokesman Mark Toner told CNN on Wednesday that counterterror operations are “consistent with international law and in coordination with the government of Yemen.”
“We will not relent in our mission to degrade, disrupt and destroy al Qaeda and ISIS,” Toner said.
The operation, according to US defense officials, was geared toward collecting as much intelligence as possible on al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, to facilitate future raids and strikes against the extremist group and prevent terror attacks.
Intelligence collection wasn’t the only objective of the raid — the group’s leader Qassim al-Rimi was also a target, a senior US military official told CNN on Monday
Toner added, “Yemen suffers most directly from the threat of AQAP and (President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi) has been a stalwart partner in the fight against AQAP and ISIS. We will continue to work with him and his representatives to ensure that this important partnership remains solid in order to ultimately eradicate AQAP/ISIS from Yemen.”
One of the Yemeni officials told CNN on Wednesday that “the green light the US had for conducting ground missions is now red.”
“That’s what happens when a mission goes wrong,” said the official on condition of anonymity, adding that military leaders were unaware of the operation.
“From the intelligence we have, conducting a raid was the wrong option and failure was written all over it. The only side that gained is al Qaeda.”
The two Yemeni officials are loyal to the internationally recognized government of Hadi, whose administration operates from the southern city of Aden. Houthi rebels have taken over the capital, Sanaa, and other key parts of the country.