Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Did Obama Capture That Bengazi Guy To Distract Everyone?


Delta Force captured Abu Khattala, one of the Benghazi attackers (possibly the ring-leader) yesterday. As Media Matters noted:

Needless to say, a lot of people had questions ('questions') about the timing. From a round-up:
The consensus was the White House had switched gears, and was now diabolically using Benghazi to distract from something else. But no agreement could be found on what that other thing is. It’s either Iraq (the Limbaugh theory), Libya (the Daily Caller theory), Hillary Clinton’s gaffes (the Fox News theory), or everything (the Allen West theory).
 It's true: we did know where he was for some time--he gave an interview to local press. Here's an excerpt:
Abu Khattala denied sanctioning or leading the attack, but said he understood the anger which fuelled it.
A crudely made movie that mocks the Prophet Mohammad, filmed in California and circulated on the Internet, has helped generate violent protests across the Islamic world.
U.S. officials have said they believe militants used the protests as cover to carry out an armed assault on the U.S. diplomatic compound and a building that was supposed to be a safe house.

"The film which insulted the Prophet was a direct attack on our values and if America wants good relations with the Muslim world it needs to do so with respect," Abu Khattala said. "If they want to do it with force, they will be met with force."
Uh ... Oops. Never mind that.

Did Obama Fake It?

The whole "The timing is fishy" idea is based on the precept that Team Obama (a) has the power to generate headlines (such as the killing of Osama) at will, when it most benefits it and that (b) by doing so they can disrupt the Republican narrative and 'win a news cycle.'

Is this the case? Might Team Obama have put Abu Khattala 'in their pocket' and just snapped him up when the time was most advantageous (i.e. when the IRS loses a bunch of emails, Iraq starts falling apart, and the rescued solider turns out to be a deserter)? Let's start with the official mainstream-media story of what actually happened.

Sept 2012: The Benghazi Attack

Khattala claims he was there--but didn't lead it (in interviews). Four people including an American ambassador are killed.

Oct 2012: An Interview

Khattala gives his Reuters interview (link above). He's fresh off the attack and gloating.

January 2013: Bounty Offered For Data

The US State Department (still under Hillary) offers a $10MM USD reward for data on the Benghazi attackers.

June 2013: Capture Stalls

Because Khattala can't be definitively linked to Al Qaeda the president's wide-ranging mandate to go after the terrorist group doesn't apply. The operation stalls, even as he gives further interviews. Sources in Libya say that US action in the country could be disastrous:
Wanis Bukhamada, the head of Libya's special forces, told The Times of London. "There would be a lot of retaliation. You couldn't tell what might happen.''
That point was echoed by officials Friday, telling the Post that another raid "could lead to the toppling of [Libyan Prime Minister Ali] Zeidan's government and increase the chaos in a country that the United States would like to see stabilize."

August 2013: Charges Filed

Charges are formally filed against Khattala in a sealed indictment in New York State. Finally that hurdle is cleared: if captured, he can be brought to trial. Planning for capture begins.

Oct 2013: Al-Qaeda Leader Captured in Libya. Libya Protests

Using his authority, the President uses Delta Force and an FBI hostage rescue team to capture Abu Anas al-Libi, an Al-Qaeda leader, in Libya. Libya is furious and says this can jeopardize both their stability and further operations (specifically calling out Khattala). 

June 2014: Capture

TL;DR: It took so long because (a) authority to capture him, (b) legalities for trying him, (c) political realities of the raid, and (d) training and preparation.

So ... What About The Timing?

It's easy to say that we should have just gone in guns-blazing as soon as we had any idea where he was--but that's not the reality that we're dealing with. There is no reason to think the military assets involved here waited one minute past the time when the go-ahead was given. There is no reason to think that political calculus--a series of tactical delays--occurred. 

Special forces operations in other nations are a huge deal: we are not NATO allies with Libya. If things had gone wrong we could have lost elite service men in an unacceptable fashion. If anything, one would think the administration's desire to have good news on #Benghazi would have moved up the time-table rather than delaying it.

The near-universal challenging of the event speaks to a world where absence of evidence is, itself, evidence of malfeasance. Any story which can be told (that the Obama administration is playing games with US security to win a future news-cycle) is assumed to be true--even when there is evidence to the contrary.

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