In early November, Ayman al Zawahiri released a message addressed to Al Shabaab, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia. Al Shabaab had suffered setbacks in recent months, but Zawahiri urged the group to keep fighting. According to him, the “Crusaders” had been weakened. While he did not explicitly take credit for the embassy protest in Cairo or the attack in Benghazi, Zawahiri did cite them as “defeats” for the Americans.
“They were defeated in Iraq and they are withdrawing from Afghanistan, and their ambassador in Benghazi was killed and the flags of their embassies were lowered in Cairo and Sanaa, and in their places were raised the flags of tawhid [monotheism] and jihad,” Zawahiri said, according to a translation by the SITE Intelligence Group. “After their consecutive defeats, they are working from behind agents and traitors,” the al Qaeda chieftain continued. “Their awe is lost and their might is gone, and they don’t dare to carry out a new campaign like their past ones in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Al Qaeda’s emir has cited America’s supposed defeats in Iraq and Afghanistan before. But this message was different. Zawahiri deliberately linked the September assaults on U.S. diplomatic facilities to the jihadists’ broader war on America and its allies. It is a connection the Obama administration refuses to make, even as the investigation into the Benghazi attack has broadened to these very same countries. This past week, according to the Associated Press, U.S. counterterrorism officials explained to the House Intelligence Committee that “uncooperative or less-than-capable local law enforcement in Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia is slowing the search for suspects in the death of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in Libya on Sept. 11.”
Al Qaeda did not, or perhaps could not, hijack American planes on the 11th anniversary of its infamous attacks. But terrorists with well-known ties to al Qaeda orchestrated assaults on U.S. diplomatic facilities in several countries, killing an ambassador and three other Americans in the process.