After US special forces succeeded in spiriting Abu Anas al-Libi out of Libya and onto a warship, the government in Tripoli howled in indignation over the “kidnapping” of its citizen. The New York Times reports today, though, that the Libyan government gave the US a green light for its raid — and for another one to capture the leaders of the attack on our consulate in Benghazi:
The Libyan government in recent weeks tacitly approved two American commando operations in its country, according to senior American officials, one to capture a senior militant from Al Qaeda and another to seize a militia leader suspected of carrying out the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on the United States diplomatic mission in Benghazi.
The Qaeda leader, Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, was captured by American commandos in Tripoli on Saturday in a raid that the United States had hoped to keep secret, but that leaked out to the news media. The operation has been widely denounced by Libyan officials, who have called it a kidnapping and said they had played no role in it.
Well, golly, who leaked the news? Jazz’ Saturday post links … the New York Times. They would know the answer to that, but the actual leak had to come from people with knowledge of the mission, which would either mean the military or the White House. With Barack Obama’s approval ratings taking a dive — especially on foreign policy after his humiliation on Syria — the latter would be the place to look for someone motivated to burnish reputations with some good news on the counter-terrorism front.
Unfortunately, the good news leads to some bad news:
While American officials expected that the Libyan government would claim that it had known nothing about the operation, news of the raid has raised concerns that the suspect in the Benghazi attacks, Ahmed Abu Khattala, has now been tipped off that the United States has the ability to conduct an operation in Libya.
It is not clear why American military commanders did not conduct both operations simultaneously to avoid this problem. Some military commanders said conditions in Libya on Saturday may not have been opportune. But the backlash against a second raid could bring down the government of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, which has teetered on the brink of collapse and has little control over vast parts of the country, particularly in the eastern part near Benghazi.
In other words, don’t expect a follow-up any time soon. Zeidan has barely kept his grip on Tripoli, and the rest of Libya is a terrorist playground, thanks to the Obama-led NATO intervention that decapitated the Qaddafi regime. Zeidan might find himself deposed by the militias that can seize the streets in front of the Defense Ministry at any time, and this latest revelation doesn’t help matters.
That prompts another question: why is the administration exposing Zeidan now? The DoD spokesman went on record as saying that Zeidan had tacitly approved the raids, which isn’t going to help him keep what little control he has left. Why not let Zeidan rant to protect his position when he can’t do anything to stop the US from conducting these missions even if he had the will to do so?
We are missing more than one opportunity in Libya, and we’re losing them because this administration seems more concerned about public relations than with operational security.