Foreign Affairs

Benghazi is still bad news

Benghazi is still bad news

Libya is still a wreck, as demonstrated by the murder of an American teacher in Benghazi on Thursday, as reported by USA Today:

The State Department says has identified the victim as Ronald Thomas Smith II. Fadyah al-Burghathi, spokeswoman for the Al-Galaa hospital where Smith was treated, said the victim was from Texas.

A security official said the American taught chemistry at the city’s International School, a Libyan-owned institute that follows an American curriculum.

No one has claimed responsibility for the teacher’s killing but suspicion is likely to fall on Islamic militants active in the city.

Where did this heartless murder take place?  Where else?

The security official, Ibrahim al-Sharaa, said the American was jogging near the compound where the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed by Islamic militants in September 2012.

The American was one of four people killed in Benghazi today and whose bodies were taken to the Al-Galaa hospital, showing the dangers of a city that is home to numerous armed groups resisting the central government’s authority. The other three were military personnel.

The UK Daily Mail has more details about Smith, a devout Christian, husband, and father, whose Libyan students wrote loving tributes on Twitter after learning of his murder:

Mr Smith, from Texas, made a video for the Austin Stone Community Church before he left for Libya. He said that he was worried about adapting to Libyan life but felt a deep desire to spread a spiritual message. The teacher said: ‘If there’s any single person in the entire universe that you can take a chance on, it’s God.’

The video clip, shown by CBS, shows Ronnie and his wife Anita boarding the plane to begin their new life. At one point, the teacher leans over in his seat to plant a kiss on his wife’s cheek. The couple had been together for 16 years and got married in 2003.

Although he was aware of the dangers, particularly as a U.S. citizen, Mr Smith drew strength from his faith and the difference that he could make in his students’ lives.

He said: ‘No matter what happens, I’m good. That gives me peace, and I’m OK with that.’

Here’s the CBS News report referred to by the Daily Mail:

These militia groups are both the source of lawlessness and, unfortunately, much of what passes for the law in the area, since the government “relies on many of them to provide security in the absence of a functioning police force.”  This makes it unsurprising to learn that the hunt for the attackers from September 2012 isn’t going very well.  From the Washington Post:

U.S. officials say efforts have stalled to capture about a dozen people secretly charged in the 2012 attack on the American compound in Benghazi that claimed the lives of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

The individuals have been charged in sealed criminal complaints filed in federal court by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. They include one of the suspected ringleaders of the attack, Ahmed Abu Khattala, a militia leader with ties to ­al-Qaeda,­ said several U.S officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case publicly.

So far, none have been brought to trial and the lack of progress in capturing Khattala has frustrated U.S. intelligence officials and lawmakers who want to see him and the others prosecuted. One official said that Khattala continues to operate in eastern Libya with impunity.

“He’s as free as a bird,” the official said.

Capturing these thugs is supposedly a “top priority for the FBI,” but they won’t comment on their progress, using the now-familiar explanation that they don’t comment on “ongoing investigations.”

Critics of these stalled efforts at justice, including Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) of the House Intelligence Committee, think the Administration should be pushing harder.  Roger doesn’t think the Administration has “adequately resourced or operationally planned” to take down the 9/11/12 attackers.  Given the volatile and uncertain situation on the ground, it doesn’t really seem like a job for the FBI.

A military operation was planned to grab one of the Benghazi ringleaders, but the seizure of another terrorist suspect – al-Qaeda figure Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, also known as Anas al-Libi – led to the retaliatory kidnapping of the Libyan prime minister, so further such operations were put on hold for the time being.  According to the Daily Mail, the murder of chemistry teacher Ron Smith may have been further retaliation for the capture of al-Libi earlier this year, and the odious American spokesman for al-Qaeda was involved:

Adam Gadahn, a former Osama bin Laden spokesman, says the kidnapping of Abu Anas al-Libi from Libya is a crime of piracy, urging Libyans to attack U.S. interests everywhere.

Gadahn released an audio speech to militant websites last Saturday saying that al-Libi had no role in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa because he had left al-Qaeda and formed a new group.

‘The kidnapping is a new episode in a series of U.S. crimes of piracy,’ Gadahn said, urging Libyans to ‘stand up for revenge’ and attack U.S. foreign and domestic interests.

Similar calls were made by al Qaeda chiefs in the days running up to the 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate which claimed the life of Ambassador Stevens.

There are fears that more aggressive efforts to take down terrorist suspects might topple the Libyan government, which is currently fighting al-Qaeda-linked insurgent forces in the eastern part of the country… which doesn’t make Libya sound like much of a foreign-policy triumph.  And are we still pretending al-Qaeda is “decimated” and “on the run,” or can we drop that, now that the 2012 election is behind us?

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