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Trump Allows Commanders To Increase Yemen Air Strikes

President Donald Trump has given Defense Secretary James Mattis and military commanders expanded powers to carry out air strikes in Yemen against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

The order was given at the same time as a Jan. 29 raid in Yemen was approved, which led to the death of Navy SEAL Ryan Owens, the Washington Examiner reported.

"This was an authority that was delegated by the president, through the Secretary of Defense to the Central Command commander to carry out," said Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, according to the examiner.

It remains unclear how often this authority will be used in the future.

"I don't want to telegraph future operations, but this is part of a plan to go after a very real threat, to ensure they are defeated and denied the opportunity to plot and carry out terrorist attacks from ungoverned spaces," added Davis.

The result has been a significant expansion of air strikes over the past two days. Any strikes in Yemen previously had to be approved by the president, a process that could take some time.

"It depends on how you count strikes. I would say we sent more than 20, two nights ago. Last night would put us somewhere over 30," Davis added.

Davis even suggested that operations in Yemen should be seen as more urgent than the military intervention in Syria and Iraq to deal with ISIS.

"Make no mistake, AQAP, while we talk a lot about ISIS, AQAP is the organization that has more American blood on its hands. It is a deadly terrorist organization that has proven itself to be very effective in targeting and killing Americans and they have intent and aspirations to continue doing so," said Davis. "We are working to stop them."

Despite Owens' death, Trump and others in his administration contend that the Jan. 29 raid was successful because it secured important intelligence about AQAP.

Owens' death has been a major issue in recent days after his father called for an inquiry into it.

During his address to Congress Feb. 28, Trump paid tribute to Owens in comments which drew sustained applause.

In addition to Owens' death, six troops were injured in the raid and 30 civilians were killed.

Opinions were mixed on Trump's tribute.

"He became president of the United States in that moment. Period," Van Jones, a former Obama administration official, said, according to Buzz Feed.

But some serving military personnel disagreed, describing the moment as "exploitative" and "distasteful" because they felt it used Owens' death for political purposes.

Sources: Washington Examiner, Buzz Feed / Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

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