We already knew they’d dragged their feet in greenlighting a rescue mission for the hostages. After James Foley was murdered last summer, a defense source told Toby Harden that he’d heard the White House had waited nearly 30 days to say okay after special ops told them they were ready. The rescue team finally made their move on July 4th, only to find that the hostages were gone. Per Catherine Herridge’s sources, the full span of the delay was actually seven weeks — despite the fact that U.S. spies had intelligence pinpointing the specific building where Mueller, Foley, and the others were being held.
“By the spring of 2014, the ISIS captors, we’re told, felt so confident in their situation that there was very little visible security around the hostages. And by May, eight Western hostages were held together in one location,” Herridge said…
According to Herridge, there was very specific intelligence about the location of a group of Western hostages in May 2014, so specific that intelligence officials even knew in which building they were being held.
“The question is why there was such a delay by the White House to act on this information,” Herridge said. “They did not OK the rescue operation until about seven weeks later. And there was clearly a fundamental disconnect between the quality of the intelligence, which the rescue team felt was of a sufficient level that they could act, and what was described to me as a significant delay on behalf of the White House, asking for the intelligence to build up further before they would act.”
Herridge said that this was the last and best opportunity to rescue all of the hostages together, because after ISIS learned of the possible raid, the hostages were no longer held together.
Is Herridge’s account necessarily inconsistent with Harnden’s? She seems to be saying that Obama waited for seven weeks after the intel ripened; Harnden’s saying that Obama waited nearly 30 days after the rescue team said they were prepared to go. Plot those on a timeline and you’ll find a three-week period in between. What was happening then? Training, I assume: Remember, the SEALs who liquidated bin Laden went so far as to build a replica of Osama’s compound on their base so that they could train in the same environment they’d encounter during the raid. Presumably something similar was done here — if not to the extent of reproducing the target site, at least gathering additional intel on the precise layout to eliminate potential blind spots. That would explain the first half of the pre-raid delay; I don’t know what explains the second half. If Obama was that worried about another Mogadishu, he should have never ordered a raid. But he did order one — 30 days after he could have, despite (apparently) knowing that the hostages were being moved around and that he’d have to move fast. That’s “strategic patience” for you.
Exit question: How did ISIS learn of the possible raid? The July 4th rescue attempt must have been one of the most closely guarded secrets in the military given the risk to the men involved. Did one of our intel assets who was scoping out the prison tip ISIS off, deliberately or not?