New details emerged regarding the raid on last week's attempt to capture a senior member of al Shabaab. It appears that the raid was called off when the Navy SEAL team determined it was unable to capture Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir alive without endangering innocents living in the villa, including children, as an unnamed government official told CNN:
"Their mission was to capture him. Once it became clear we were not going to (be) able to take him, the Navy commander made the decision to withdraw," said the official, who has direct knowledge of the entire Somalia operation but declined to be identified publicly.
The Washington Post suggests the aborted raid is an indication of the Obama administration's new, restricted counterterrorism approach:
As they provided more details of the aborted operation in the town of Barawe, current and former administration officials said it was designed within restrictive counterterrorism guidelines that President Obama signed in the spring. Under the 2001 congressional Authorization for the Use of Military Force, the guidelines say that lethal force can be used only when there is a “near certainty that non-combatants will not be injured or killed.”
If civilians had not been present at the compound, a senior administration official said, “we might just as well have done a standoff strike,” hitting the site with missiles launched from piloted or unmanned aircraft. The desire to avoid hitting non-combatants, the official said, “accounts for the fact that ultimately [U.S. forces] disengaged” when they “met resistance.”
The guidelines also codify a long-stated but rarely implemented administration preference for capturing rather than killing terrorism targets.This all may be a response to claims that the Navy SEALs were forced to call off the raid due to fierce resistance from al Shabaab. Or maybe it's an indication that the administration has decided that a heavy-handed counterterrorism approach is counterproductive. Let's hope it's the latter.