Saturday, December 6, 2014

US Launches Failed Rescue Operation Against Al-Queda; Hostages Killed

The United States attempted to free hostages held by al-Queda in Yemen, but during the effort, the hostages were murdered. Though the militants operating the compound where the hostages had been housed were not believed to have had any prior knowledge about the raid, they believed that they were "on edge" due to a previous rescue attempt (The Australian). Though the American forces attempted to catch the militants by surprise, a noise, possibly a barking dog, alerted the militants, who proceeded to shoot the hostages and exit out of the back (ABC News).

The operation had been authorized by President Obama, who believed the life of Mr. Somers, one of the hostages, was in "immediate danger" due to a video released that threatened his murder in 72 hours (Reuters).

Tragically, the coldblooded murder of the hostages also doomed an effort by Gift of the Givers to secure the release of one of the hostages, who was set to be released one day after the raid had taken place; the United States government was not aware of this when attempting the raid (New York Times).

Though this illustrates the danger in using armed forces in attempted rescues, in this case, given that the executive branch had strong cause to believe that the life of an American was in imminent danger, I believe they made the correct choice, given the information they had, to conduct the raid, and take the gamble that the rescue operation would be successful, instead of dooming the hostage to likely death.

Additionally, this event further highlights the cruel, cold-blooded, heartless nature of al-Queda. Their complete disregard for innocent lives continues to disturb America, and adds justification to international efforts to obliterate them.

Questions for discussion:

1) Do you believe that the United States, specifically, the executive branch, was justified in authorizing the raid? (I would actually be very interested in hearing arguments about why they weren't.)

2) The United States has a policy against paying ransom, because doing so would serve to encourage future kidnappings. Is this policy justified to prevent a means of "rewarding" kidnappers or should the United States modify their policy to protect the lives of its citizens at all costs?


Netta Wang 7 said...

I agree that they made the right choice in going forward with the operation, even though it did end very unfortunately. In these types of situations, there are no guarantees, and the US commandos go in aware of the risks and possible deaths. While it's easy to say in hindsight that the US government should have gotten that extra information or should have waited longer, like you mentioned, the Yemeni branch already warned that death was imminent in the coming few days, so attempting to save him and the other hostages is better than choosing to do nothing at all.

Emma Wynn said...

I have to disagree with Netta in that the US government made the wrong decision. If they knew about the other attacks, they could have easily figured out that Al Queda was on edge. The US could have waited at least a day before launching the attacks. Of course, it is likely that the outcome could have been the same and not every hostage situation can be a success. I just think waiting something like this out for a day or two and gathering more information would have been the best option.

Brendan Vroom 6 said...

I think that this kind of situation is especially tricky because the US government looks bad whether they authorize a rescue mission or not. If they try and fail, as in this tragedy, the blame seems to fall on the executive branch for not only failing to rescue the hostages, but also endangering the lives of American soldiers with a ground operation. At the same time, if the American government didn't take immediate action and initiate a rescue attempt, and the hostages ended up being killed anyways, the executive branch would take heat for failing to intervene. Because of this, I think that the best way to go was a rescue attempt, because it seemed likely that the hostages faced imminent death. Although unsuccessful, this intervention sends a message to al-Qaeda that the US isn't going to sit back and let the terrorist organization have its way.

Elias Bermeo said...

Obviously it's difficult to make such a decision, but I agree with Netta that it was the right move. Of course more information would always be helpful when determining whether or not to go through with an operation like this, but waiting to attain more details could have been just as costly. It also seems that the operation was nearly successful; if the American forces hadn't lost the element of surprise for whatever reason they may have had a good chance of rescuing the hostages. What I'm more interested in is the details of the Gift of the Givers' negotiations with Al Qaeda about one of the hostage's release. The U.S. government was unaware of the identity of the other hostage, but did this organization know that the South African hostage they were trying to free was being held with Mr. Somers, and that there was a video from Al Qaeda threatening his life? Payment had been arranged through Gift of the Givers to release this other hostage, and although the U.S. has a policy against paying ransom, I think the organization could have tried to communicate with the U.S. government about their plan, to possibly prevent this unfortunate situation. Perhaps another strategy would've been made if U.S. officials knew that by holding off one more day they could save at least one innocent life.

Lindsay Block said...

While I understand that you would like to hear a point of view that does not approve of the choice to go forward with the operation, I agree with Netta that the critical and urgent nature of the operation made it necessary. As Yemeni intelligence had informed the President that an execution was expected soon, I believe that the only option(to save Somers' life) was to attempt the operation. However, the fact that there was another hostage with Somers' who was not sentenced to die, it could be said that the operation focused more on the US timetable to save Somers' life than the other hostage. While risks were calculated, some might say that this puts unfair value on Somers' life and less on the South African hostage who was also killed. I also think that the result of the operation does not make it fair to judge whether it should have been carried out, as there were unknown factors which ultimately made the operation a failure.

Spencer Walling said...

I agree with the decision that Obama made in authorizing this invasion and attempt to free the hostages. In no way shape or form should we look into ransom because all that would say to Al-Qaeda and other groups out there it that all you have to do is capture an American, and you will get the reward you desire. If Obama and the administration ever believes they can free hostages or save American lives then they have to do that! We will always be criticizing the fact that they "didn't have that extra information" but we have to realize that you never know for sure what you're getting yourself into until you go through with it and face it. I also agree with Brendan in that it's better going through with a rescue operation than waiting and ending up with the hostages being killed anyways.

Brian Yee said...

In these types of situations, I believe it's best to find the best strategy for an operation and doing it at a rather fast pace. I do not mean to rush, but with given intelligence, the US made the right decision. By waiting on more information, death would be imminent upon the hostage. I don't think that the Yemeni would have waited for a US response, especially since they held more leverage in this situation. The executive branch was definitely justified in authorizing the raid. By not taking any action, this situation could have exacerbated into more intractable circumstances. The US sent the message that they will take action if this were to occur again.