President Barack Obama took credit Tuesday for the capture of a Libyan jihadi who helped organized the Sept. 11, 2012 attack that killed four Americans at two U.S. installations in Benghazi.
“I have made it a priority to find and bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of four brave Americans… [and] with this operation, the United States has once again demonstrated that we will do whatever it takes to see that justice is done when people harm Americans.”
Ambassador Chris Stevens, State Department employee Sean Smith, and U.S. guards Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed when the jihadis attacked the poorly-guarded and largely unprotected sites
Obama also suggested that jihadis who participated in the surprise attacks will be caught. “We will continue our efforts to bring to justice those who were responsible for the Benghazi attacks,” he said.
The announcement may help Obama over the next few days, when he’ll face tough decisions about whether to reverse his hands-off policy in Iraq, and more questions about his decision to trade five top Afghan jihadis for one American deserter, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
But it won’t help Libya, which has been wracked by civil unrest and jihadi attacks since the Obama intervened in in 2010 in an emerging civil war. Subsequently, he helped various Libyan rebel groups eventually kill the country’s dictator, Moammar Gadhafi, in October 2011.
Since then, Libya’s central government is too weak to suppress numerous jihadi groups, which have been helping other jihadis launch attacks in nearby countries, including Algeria and Nigeria, using captured army weaponry.
Obama hinted at the continued chaos since his intervention. “We will continue to honor our fallen by carrying on their efforts in support of the Libyan people’s aspirations to live in a peaceful, prosperous, and democratic society,’ he said.
Immediately after the Benghazi attack, Obama’s deputies used Islamic anger at a video about Islam’s prophet, to distract the U.S media from the “broader policy failures” that left up to the Benghazi attack.
Before Obama’s intervention, Gadhafi had suppressed jihadi groups in Libya.
Obama’s midday statement portrayed the operation as an arrest, not a military strike. “This individual will now face the full weight of the American justice system,” he said.
The arrested jihadi, known as Ahmed Abu Khatallah, is being held on a U.S. ship in international waters, where he can’t claim the protections of U.S. criminal law.
Some GOP politicians have urged that he be sent to the camp at Guantanamo Bay, where other jihadis are held, to ensure he can’t shield behind protections intended for suspected criminals.
That transfer likely won’t happen, because Obama has repeatedly said he wants to close the camp down.
Khatallah had identified himself more than a year ago as a leader in the attack, and had met with numerous journalists for interviews.