It looks like it may be time to wag the dog a bit as President Obama is losing traction in national polls and the administration has taken a significant amount of heat for mid-east policy failures that recently culminated in the death of an American ambassador.
According to a report from the Associated Press numerous sources inside the White House indicate that U.S. special operations teams are awaiting orders to strike those responsible for the attack in Benghazi, Libya which left four Americans dead:
Administration officials say the White House has put special operations strike forces on standby and moved drones into the skies above Africa, ready to hit militant targets from Libya to Mali, if U.S. investigators can find the al-Qaida-linked group responsible for the death of the U.S. ambassador in Libya.
But the officials say the administration also is weighing whether the short-term payoff of being able to claim retribution against al-Qaida is worth the risk that such strikes would be ineffective and rile governments in the region.
Details were provided by three current and one former administration official, as well as an analyst who was approached by the White House for help. All four spoke only on condition of anonymity.
The White House declined to comment on the debate over how best to respond to the Benghazi attack.
The attack has become an issue in the U.S. election season, with Republicans accusing the Obama administration of being slow to label the assault an act of terrorism early on, and slow to strike back at those responsible.
“They are aiming for a small pop, a flash in the pan, so as to be able to say, ‘Hey, we’re doing something about it,'” said retired Air Force Lt. Col. Rudy Attalah, the former Africa counterterrorism director for the Department of Defense under President George W. Bush.
Attalah noted that in 1998, after the embassy bombing in Nairobi, the Clinton administration fired cruise missiles to take out a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan that may have been producing chemical weapons for Al Qaeda.
“It was a way to say, ‘Look, we did something,'” he said.
With the official story behind the Benghazi attacks having taken on a different narrative on an almost daily basis, the White House is in crisis mode trying to explain away the security failures in Libya, the confusion coming from the Obama administration and State Department about what actually happened, and the lack of an American response.
With the Obama re-election campaign seemingly unraveling after a disastrous debate performance two weeks ago, perhaps the President feels that he can give Americans another Bin-Ladenesque kill to sway sentiment back in his direction.
That the AP report indicates three “anonymous” sources inside the White House have confirmed drones are in the air and U.S. special operations groups are on standby while the White House itself officially declined to comment, presumably to maintain secrecy and mission integrity, suggests that those inside sources are leaking the information under direct orders from officials high up in the administration.
This situation – including the fact these attacks were able to be carried out against US diplomatic assets who had little to no security in a highly volatile region of a country which had just been destabilized by the execution of their leader of forty years – just doesn’t seem right.