- Military bans troops from Baptist church event honoring ‘God’s Rescue Squad’
- ‘Pocket drones’: U.S. Army developing tiny surveillance tools for the next big war
- Belgian cafe posts sign: Dogs allowed, but Jews stay out
- Gen. Dempsey: Pentagon studying Russian readiness plans not viewed ‘for 20 years’
- John McCain: Botched, two-hour execution of murderer is ‘torture’
- House GOP ready to move border bill
- Bomb squad called after live WWII artillery washes on Cape Cod beach
- HAYDEN: Intelligence, evidence and the case against Russia
- Ohio university quiz implies atheists are naturally smarter than Christians
- Rep. Henry Cuellar on border crisis: ‘Playing defense on the one-yard line’
EXCLUSIVE: Obama OK’d 2 SEAL teams for pirates
Question of the Day
President Obama dispatched two separate teams of Navy commandos to carry out last week’s rescue of a merchant ship captain held hostage by Somali pirates but left the operational details and rules of engagement to military commanders, National Security Adviser James. L. Jones said Tuesday.
“I can tell you from a White House and presidential standpoint, there was no conflict, no gnashing of teeth, or excessive influence in trying to manage this thing,” Mr. Jones, a retired Marine Corps four-star general, told The Washington Times in an interview.
He and other military officials gave the most detailed account to date of how Navy SEAL forces were dispatched - first from a base in Africa and later from the United States - to carry out the mission, and how Pentagon officials communicated with the White House. They sought to dispel Internet reports that the military was delayed from taking action by indecision inside the White House.
“I don’t recognize” the information being circulated on the Internet, Mr. Jones said.
Pentagon officials said the owners of the merchant ship Maersk Alabama controlled the scene in the early hours after the hostage-taking on April 8. As soon as the Pentagon took charge on April 10 with its warship the USS Bainbridge on the scene, Mr. Obama first authorized a few Navy SEALs from a base in Africa to deploy to the Bainbridge and take necessary action. The team was flown by transport aircraft and parachuted to waters near the warship, officials said.
“It took awhile to get facts and then to get the military on scene,” said one senior military official, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of discussing special forces operations. “As the picture got more clear and commanders’ requests went back down the chain, the guidance was: ‘We would like a peaceful resolution. However, if Captain Phillips’ life is in danger you can take appropriate action.’ ”
The arrival of the first SEAL team gave the military an emergency capability if the pirates holding the ship’s captain became violent. Mr. Jones said the Pentagon requested that a second, more complete SEAL team be dispatched from the United States and Mr. Obama approved that request as well.
“This was, from my perspective, a textbook operation,” Mr. Jones said in the interview. “There were two things [the president] was asked to approve and he did. And the military executed flawlessly.”
Among the reports disputed by Pentagon officials was a widely circulated Internet critique - purportedly from an anonymous source close to the SEAL community - saying Navy SEALs missed a chance to shoot the pirates on April 10 when Richard Phillips, the captain of the hijacked freighter, jumped out of a lifeboat where he was being held in a failed escape attempt.
However, military officials at the Pentagon involved in the operation said Navy SEAL snipers had not arrived on board the Bainbridge at that time and therefore could not have fired on the pirates.
Contrary to the critical report, the president did not reject two proposed rescue attempts by U.S. forces prior to the sniper attack, Mr. Jones said.
Navy SEAL commandos based in Norfolk, from the Naval Development Group, part of the Naval Special Warfare Center based in Coronado, Calif., were dispatched to the region. On April 12, snipers on the team killed the three Somali pirates holding Mr. Phillips with what military officials said was a difficult, simultaneous rifle attack.
They fired from the fantail of the guided missile destroyer while it was towing the lifeboat to seas that were less choppy.
A fourth man captured during the incident, Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse, was brought back to the United States and charged with piracy in federal court in New York on Tuesday. He appeared in New York with a bandaged hand, smiling at times as he was escorted by federal agents.
About the Author
Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.
He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.
TWT Video Picks
Second- and third-stringers eye 2016 if front-runner stumbles
- 'We're coming for you, Barack Obama': Top U.S. official discloses threat from ISIL terrorists
- 'Pocket drones': U.S. Army developing tiny spies for the next big war
- Russia shipping sophisticated weapons systems to Ukraine separatists
- NAPOLITANO: What if our democracy is a fraud?
- Michelle Obama says money in politics is bad, asks donors for 'big, fat check'
- White House readies for House GOP impeachment push: 'Foolish' to ignore
- Hamas rejects Kerry's call for cease-fire; Fears grow others could join fight against Israel
- EDITORIAL: Detroit's water 'spigot bigots'
- Ted Nugent loses second casino gig for 'racist remarks'
- Let it roll: D.C. Council hits Las Vegas on taxpayer's dime, leaves $14,000 tab
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq