GOP Presidential nominee Mitt Romney has said all kinds of things he doesn’t believe in order to play to the conservative base, but the scary thing about his recent foreign policy comments is I think he actually believes them. Today he implied that Al Qaeda was behind the attacks against the U.S. Embassy in
Libya when he told an audience at the Virginia Military Institute the attacks in Benghazi were “likely the work of the same forces that attacked our homeland.” Is he right?
Prior to 2011 there was no Al Qaeda presence in Libya. The reason is simple: the regime of former Col. Gaddafi didn’t want Al Qaeda around and kept them out. Sure, Gaddafi was a bad guy. As a secular ruler and not an Islamist though, radical groups like Al Qaeda were a threat to his regime too. With Gaddafi’s killing in 2011 his regime came to an end and the National Transitional Council became the recognized authority in Libya. The NTC really consisted of several of Libya’s largest tribes, which even Gaddafi had to placate in order to keep his rule. It is possible that in the aftermath of Gaddafi’s fall Al Qaeda snuck in or was invited in to Libya by some of the NTC members.
The attacks on the U.S. Embassy demonstrated a high level of local knowledge about Benghazi and the U.S. presence there. Al Qaeda has a rather well known modus operandi in which the group establishes contacts with locals, recruits followers, builds up a cadre of supporters, and when enough infrastructure is in place carries out attacks. Going from no presence in a country to having the capability to carry out coordinated attacks in under a year is much faster than Al Qaeda typically worked when it was at full strength, something it is far from now. There are many other Islamic extremist groups out there besides Al Qaeda, and Benghazi has been awash in weapons and armed groups since Gaddafi’s fall. Several other international organizations were attacked there before the U.S. Embassy attack.
Romney needed to say it is likely Al Qaeda so he can credibly claim President Obama has failed to eliminate the group, never mind that Obama authorized the mission that killed Osama Bin Laden. I hope the individuals who attacked our embassy in Libya are targeted as soon as possible. But claiming they were Al Qaeda when it’s likely they were not shows you that Mitt Romney is willing to scare the American people into voting for him, which makes you wonder what else he’s willing to do to win. He also says he’d arm the rebels in Syria, even though our best intelligence services really have no idea who those rebels are. I think we’ve heard this one before. We arm a group of rebels we know nothing about because they are fighting a nasty enemy, say the Soviet Union, as we did in Afghanistan, only this time it’s to counter Iran in Syria. What could go wrong? While he’s criticizing Obama for failing to destroy Al Qaeda, Romney’s policy if enacted could very well create the next Al Qaeda in Syria.