Army Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander of U.S. Central Command, took responsibility for the Yemen raid in January that resulted in the death of U.S. Navy SEAL William Owens.
"First and foremost I am responsible for this mission. I am the CENTCOM commander and I am responsible for what's done in my region and what's not done in my region. So I accept the responsibility for this. We lost a lot on this operation," Votel told lawmakers on Capitol Hill Thursday, responding to a question from Sen. Tim Kaine.
The raid undertaken in Yemen on Jan. 29 has come under increasing criticism after it resulted in the death of a valuable Navy SEAL operator, the loss of an MV-22 Osprey, and accusations of civilian casualties.
Several investigations were launched into the deadly raid, Votel said.
"We have made a determination based on our best information available that we did cause casualties, somewhere between four and 12 casualties, that I accept responsibility for," Votel said.
All the investigations are complete with the exception of the downed MV-22, Votel told lawmakers.
"I think we had a good understanding of exactly what happened on the objective and we've been able to pull lessons learned out of that that we will apply in future operations," Votel added.
"We lost a valued operator. We had people wounded. We caused civilian casualties, lost an expensive aircraft. We did gain some valuable information that will be helpful for us," Votel said.
Over the last several weeks U.S. forces have stepped up operations in Yemen, targeting members of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, commonly referred to as AQAP. Those operations have included nearly 40 airstrikes targeting AQAP leadership, Pentagon officials said.
Operations in Yemen have not been without controversy however, according to Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, a Democrat whose constituents include many American Muslims.
During Thursday’s hearing, the Peters voiced the concerns of his constituents to the CENTCOM commander about the indiscriminate bombings being carried out by U.S. ally Saudi Arabia in the Yemen conflict, which have killed roughly 4,000 civilians.
"I attribute those type situations more to the competence of those who are operating there, and their ability to properly target. As you are aware, we do not provide intelligence for those things, we do not make decisions for them, but yet we have a relationship with Saudi Arabia," Votel told the senator.
Votel acknowledge the concern over the rising civilian casualties, largely resulting from Saudi airstrikes, and noted that he had personally spoken with his Saudi contact about the importance of forming relationships with the Red Cross and other non-government organizations like Doctors Without Borders.
Votel would not go so far as to say that the Saudi bombing campaign in Yemen was deliberate. "I attribute it to a growing need to develop a better and more precise targeting process for their operations," he said.
We can "engage them and help with their professionalism," Votel said, about helping Saudi Arabia minimize civilian casualties in Yemen. " We bring our values to the fight wherever we are," Votel added.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.