Just when the situation in Libya couldn’t get much more embarrassing for the Obama administration, now comes the news that Ahmed Abu Khattala, a leader of the jihadist group Ansar al Shariah who was seen by witnesses directing the attack on the American consulate, is living openly and defiantly in Benghazi. He is lounging around a seaside hotel and breathing defiance in an interview with a New York Times reporter, bragging that Libya’s nascent army is too “chicken” to come after him. He says he has no plans to go into hiding.
Although he denied being part of the attack, he admitted being on the scene and refused to condemn the murder of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans. “From a religious point of view, it is hard to say whether it is good or bad,” he said, no doubt disingenuously.
One can only wonder if the U.S. government knows where Abu Khattala is, or whether this is another instance, as I noted in an earlier post, of the news media knowing more about what’s going on than the intelligence community. And if the U.S. government knows as much as the New York Times, and can track Abu Khattala, the obvious question is why we have not acted to bring him to justice–something that Libya’s government is plainly too weak to do?
Add those to the pressing questions being raised by this whole dismaying episode which, for the moment at least, conveys a lamentable image of American weakness. That could change, of course, if commandos swoop in to capture or kill Abu Khattala or if a drone appears over his house to launch a Hellfire missile–something that is well within the capabilities of the Joint Special Operations Command and CIA.