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NYT Explains: Libya Is Thwarting Benghazi Arrests

From an always helpful New York Times:

Libya Thwarts Arrests in Benghazi Attack

By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT and ERIC SCHMITT | September 9, 2013

WASHINGTON — A year after the attacks in Benghazi that killed the United States ambassador to Libya and three other Americans, the Justice Department has indicted suspects. Intelligence officials have a general idea of where they are hiding. And the military has a contingency plan to snatch them if that becomes necessary.

But the fledgling Libyan government, which has little to no control over significant parts of the country, like Benghazi and eastern Libya, has rebuffed the Obama administration’s efforts to arrest the suspects.

If they have little control, what is stopping us? It’s not like we are afraid of offending them. Susan Rice offended their President when she in effect called him a liar on national TV. Besides, didn’t we basically put this ‘fledgling’ government into power?

President Obama promised the day after the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks to bring the killers to justice, and the fact that this has not happened has led Congressional Republicans to renew their criticism of the administration for its handling of the Benghazi episode as officials have made the case that Congress should authorize a military strike against Syria…

Notice that it’s only Congressional Republicans who are complaining. Certainly The Times isn’t. They understand completely. And they are here to help us understand the obstacles Obama faces.

Some military and law enforcement officials have grown frustrated with what they believe [sic] is the White House’s unwillingness to pressure the Libyan government to make the arrests or allow American forces to do so, according to current and former senior government officials….

But they have the wrong end of the stick. The Times will set them straight. These things are nuanced.

Several senior F.B.I. officials and members of the F.B.I. team based in Tripoli, Libya, who have been building the investigation for the past year believe the White House should be pressing harder for arrests

The White House chief of staff, Denis R. McDonough, was asked on “Fox News Sunday” why one of the suspects, Ahmed Khattala, has been interviewed by several American news media outlets but has remained free.

“The United States government does what it says, and we will do what we say in this instance, as we do in every other instance,” Mr. McDonough said. “I have no doubt about that.”

Mr. McDonough’s interview was such a disaster, The Times clearly felt the need to ride to the rescue here.

Federal law enforcement authorities have filed murder charges against Mr. Khattala, a militia leader in Benghazi, in connection with the attacks. The authorities have identified several others who they said they believe participated in the attacks, and have filed charges under seal against some of them, according to American officials…

Some senior Obama administration and law enforcement officials would like Libya to arrest and try the suspects because they do not want the United States to be seen as interfering with another country’s sovereignty. But with militias controlling much of eastern Libya, that may not be possible logistically or politically…

“The Libyan government has to wrestle with this idea: ‘What would that mean to us if we apprehended some of these people, if we tried them, if we handed them over?’ ” Gen. Carter F. Ham, a former head of the military’s Africa Command, told a conference in Aspen, Colo., in July. “It’s a very, very complex issue.”

It’s "very, very complex"!

Among the obstacles the F.B.I. has encountered in Libya has been a reluctance by some police and government officials there to target members of Ansar al-Shariah, a local Islamist group whose fighters joined the attack, according to witnesses. Government officials in Benghazi have said it would be impossible for lightly armed Libyan forces to arrest militia members. Leaders of Benghazi’s most powerful militias, some of whom fought with Ansar al-Shariah members during the uprising against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, say they would be hesitant to act against suspects unless they were shown conclusive proof of their involvement.

So they can’t be arrested, though Obama really wants to arrest them.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon has been preparing contingency plans should Mr. Obama order a military operation against the suspects. For months, an unarmed American military surveillance drone has flown virtually every day over Benghazi, gathering information and poised to respond if any of the suspects are identified.

The top-secret Joint Special Operations Command has compiled “target packages” of detailed information about possible suspects, senior military and counterterrorism officials said. Working with the Pentagon and the C.I.A., the command has been preparing the dossiers as the first step in anticipation of possible orders from Mr. Obama to take action against those determined to have played a role in the Benghazi assault that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.

But a number of Libyan political figures have expressed wariness that any unilateral military action by the United States, like a drone strike, would fuel popular anger and add a destructive new element to the uncertain security situation in Benghazi, especially with the Obama administration considering military strikes against Syria.

So they can’t be whacked, though Obama really wants to whack them.

So shut up about not getting justice for the four Americans in Benghazi even a year later. Obama is doing the best he can. It’s "very, very complex"!

This article was posted by Steve Gilbert on Tuesday, September 10th, 2013. Comments are currently closed.

One Response to “NYT Explains: Libya Is Thwarting Benghazi Arrests”

  1. What’s It Matter Now?™




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