The White House on Thursday defended the anti-terror raid ordered by President Trump that left one Navy SEAL dead and resulted in several civilian casualties.
It also offered a new timeline of events for how the raid, first planned by the Obama administration but triggered by Trump, came about.
“This was a very, very well thought out and executed effort,” said White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who repeatedly noted that planning for the raid began under the Obama administration.
The deadly raid has become a flashpoint of controversy.
But there have been reports that as many as two dozen civilians, some of them children, were also killed.
Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens died in the operation, and four other service members were injured.
On Thursday, Reuters reported that U.S. military officials have alleged that the operation was approved without sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup operations.
Spicer strongly refuted those claims and detailed the timeline leading up to the raid for reporters.
A day before the 2016 U.S. presidential election, while President Obama was still in office, U.S. Central Command presented the planned strike to the Department of Defense, Spicer said.
The Defense Department approved the plan on Dec. 19, sending it to Obama’s National Security Council for review. On Jan. 6, there was an inter-agency deputies meeting, Spicer said, where officials gave the plan the green light and recommended it take place on the next moonless night, at which point Trump would be president.
On Jan. 24, after Trump had been sworn into office, new Defense Secretary James Mattis reviewed the strike memo and sent it back to the president with his approval.
Trump held several meetings over the next few days with Mattis, national security adviser Michael Flynn, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford, senior adviser Jared Kushner, chief strategist Steve Bannon, NSC chief of staff Keith Kellogg and CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Spicer said.
The president signed the memo ordering the strike on Jan. 26.
“Not only was it a very thought out process by this administration, it had started back on Nov. 7 with what was — or clearly well before that — but moved forward by Centcom on Nov. 7,” Spicer said.
The press secretary said Trump was in his residence at the White House as the raid took place.
“He was kept in touch with his national security staff and Gen. Mattis and others kept him updated on both the raid and the death of chief Owens and the four other individuals who were injured,” Spicer said. “He was kept apprised of the situation throughout the evening.”
Spicer insisted that the raid was “a successful operation by all standards.”
Still, he acknowledged that is “hard to ever call something a complete success when you have loss of life or people injured.”
The White House’s defense comes amid reports from The New York Times, Washington Post and Reuters that paint a chaotic scene of U.S. troops being sent into a heavily guarded compound where the al Qaeda fighters may have been tipped off to their plans.
In addition, Centcom has “concluded regrettably that civilian non-combatants were likely killed.”
Centcom also said the raid “will likely provide insight into the planning of future terror plots."