U.S. President Donald Trump targeted Republican Senator John McCain on Twitter Thursday, saying McCain's criticism of a U.S. military raid in Yemen in which a Navy Seal was killed only "emboldens the enemy."
McCain on Wednesday described last week's raid, which claimed the life of Chief Special Warfare Operator William "Ryan" Owens, as a "failure." McCain said the raid, which also resulted in the deaths of civilians, including several children and women, and the loss of a $75 million airplane, "cannot be labeled a success."
White House spokesman Sean Spicer defended the raid Wednesday, saying it resulted in the deaths of around 14 suspected al-Qaida operatives.
"It's absolutely a success and anyone who suggests it's not does a disservice to Ryan Owens," Spicer said.
The raid was the first major counterterror operation of the new Trump administration. It prompted the Yemeni government to say on Wednesday it had requested a "reassessment" of the raid and denied reports it had asked for a suspension of counterterrorisim initiatives with the U.S.
"Yemen continues to cooperate with the United States and continues to abide by all the agreements," said Yemen's Foreign Minister Abdul-Malik al-Makhlafi in Cairo. He also said a Yemeni call for a halt to U.S. special operations is "not true."
McCain, a frequent critic of the president, is a Vietnam veteran and a former prisoner of war. After losing the 2008 presidential election to Barack Obama, McCain won re-election to his senate seat in the southwestern state of Arizona.