Via the Free Beacon, make sure to read Ed’s post earlier to understand just how openly Khattala, the jihadi nabbed by U.S. forces over the weekend, has been living in Libya since the Benghazi attack. He was a prime suspect from the very beginning; he gave multiple interviews to western media in the years since, all but taunting the White House to come pick him up. The criminal charges against him were filed more than nine months ago. Only this month, for some reason, did the military finally move in. How come?
Two possibilities. One: The political situation on the ground in Libya changed enough to make a U.S intervention possible. My theory of why Obama laid off initially was because he didn’t want the weak Libyan government to have to cope with a backlash from the local militias if American troops swooped in and kidnapped a big-name jihadi or two. As long as we could monitor Khattala and make sure he didn’t run, we could wait until the government was in a stronger position to make our move. Problem is, the government’s only gotten weaker over time; lately, Libya’s devolved into a classic military-warlord-versus-jihadis struggle for control of the state. The White House may have concluded that there’d never be a better time to move on Khattala.
Two: This is exactly what it looks like, i.e. Obama’s trying to stop the bleeding he’s endured lately on foreign policy over Ukraine and Iraq and the Taliban Five by seizing an easy victory. I’m old enough to remember when U.S. counterterror developments, especially “terror alerts,” were greeted by our liberal betters online as obviously political gambits by the Bush administration, designed to distract the public from more important matters. Questioning the timing was standard practice for the lefty blogosphere circa 2006. Today, of course, it’s the height of crankery to believe that a guy whose party is in deep trouble in the midterms, and who’s proved before that he’s not above well-timed executive action for electoral ends, might have given this order with an eye to putting some good news on the front page for once. That’s what Rosen’s getting at here. Jen “Promise of Hashtag” Psaki has no real answer, of course.