Report: Team involved in tracking Benghazi suspects leaving Libya permanently

A scoop with many angles — I had to read it twice to let it all sink in — but I don’t see how it squares with the DOJ’s decision to finally finally finally bring charges against the Benghazi attackers a few weeks ago. O himself mentioned the sealed indictment at his last presser. If the White House was prepared to give up its hunt for the Benghazi jihadis, I would think they’d want to do it as quietly as possible. That means no indictment, no high-profile reminders from the president that Americans want justice. Instead, if you believe Fox, they’re doing the opposite — a showy proclamation that justice will be served followed by a quiet withdrawal of the troops tasked with grabbing the culprits. Why would they do that? If you’re going to let it lie, as shameful as that would be, let it lie.

Even so, the scenario sketched here of Obama and his cabinet paralyzed by deteriorating security in Libya and the prospect of another “Black Hawk Down” if they sent American soldiers into the maelstrom to get the bad guys is completely believable. That’s always been my hunch as to why troops weren’t sent to the scene the night of the attack. The only way to make a massive security failure by State worse would be to put boots on the ground in an emergency and then have something go wildly wrong. Imagine how O’s Libyan intervention would have looked in hindsight, two months out from an election, with not only a U.S. ambassador dead but American soldiers dragged through the streets by our “allies” after a hastily planned rescue operation went south.

“We put American special operations in harm’s way to develop a picture of these suspects and to seek justice and instead of acting, we stalled. We just let it slip and pass us by and now it’s going to be much more difficult,” one source said, citing 1,200 prisoners escaping two weeks ago. “It’s already blowing up. Daily assassinations, bi-weekly prison escapes, we waited way too long.”…

Pentagon officials disputed what the operators in question are claiming, saying that group was not specifically tasked with finding the Libyan suspects responsible for the Benghazi attack. These officials said other forces out of Fort Bragg are tasked with that mission, and they are not leaving. Pentagon officials also say the trainers, which were authorized by Congress under part of the defense budget to facilitate training of Libyans for counterterrorism, were not there to track the Benghazi suspects. They insist congressional funding is very clear in its mission: for training locals in counterterrorism.

However, special operators in the region counter the claims and suggest the Pentagon and State Department are playing with words, saying those being pulled are in fact tasked with both training the Libyans and identifying Benghazi attack suspects. “The training is partly a cover and some of these guys … provided the information on suspects directly to U.S. military commanders and the U.S. State Department last November and again in January. They are there and trained to find, fix and finish,” one said…

To make matters worse, the U.S. trainers have been sitting in their Libyan “villa” now for a number of days after a Libyan military leader kicked the Americans out of the camp where they had been standing-up a Libyan special forces team for nearly a year, backed by U.S. taxpayer dollars. The maneuver by the Libyan chief of defense has “left our guys high and dry,” and this same chief has locked down Tripoli as well, Fox News is told. The sources say U.S. leaders have now let the Libyan government occupy the special forces camp — and in turn undermine the effort to train a legitimate force capable of countering Al Qaeda, which was the initial assignment before the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi.

The “villa” is a stopover point for troops who are on their way out of the country. According to Fox, Gen. Carter Ham told Chris Stevens’s replacement that he could submit a plan to get the jihadis — but he never got approval from State, Defense, or the White House. Hillary was, allegedly, personally briefed. Supposedly one special ops commander told a former U.S. diplomat in Benghazi, “So you’re willing to let these guys get away with murder?” Evidently so, if it means risking another Mogadishu.

Assuming it’s all true, that the troops were held back for months while jihadis in Libya and in the wider region gathered strength, why did O wait? Maybe he figured that, coming off his reelection victory, it was too risky to spend political capital on a dangerous counterterrorism op stemming from an event that his base has always regarded as politicized and overblown. He had domestic priorities to tend to, like the big gun-control push. He didn’t need a new “Black Hawk Down” incident weakening him. But now the circumstances have changed; his approval rating’s suffered its annual summer swoon and politicos are whispering that he’s already essentially in lame-duck mode. That’s why I think maybe there are operations against the jihadis still to come — if they’re successful they’ll goose his popularity, especially after he’s taken a beating for being a ditherer on Egypt and Syria. Having the DOJ bring charges was his way, I think, of reminding a disaffected public that he’s still the guy who got Bin Laden. Imagine how much more time he’ll spend reminding them if he gets the Benghazi culprits too.

Or, could be that he thinks the U.S. has enough of a headache right now with Egypt, Syria, and potentially Iraq that he can’t afford to make any sudden moves in Libya too. There’s still a U.S.-backed central government there, kinda sorta. It may not have real power compared to the militias, but it’s something O can point to as “proof” that his big first-term intervention paid some kind of trivial dividend. If he does something splashy involving U.S. troops, though, the militias may retaliate by knocking out the government and then you’d have jihadis in formal control in a country that was supposed to be a showpiece of U.S. foreign policy after the Arab Spring. That’s one too many fiascos.