Ironically, Hillary Clinton might benefit from the new focus on the White House Benghazi, Libya, e-mail/talking points. It didn’t come from her. She was not responsible for delaying its production. And she hasn’t made the ludicrous claim that the Ben Rhodes e-mail to brief Susan Rice about Benghazi isn’t about Benghazi. It may be reflexive for her to take the White House’s side in these fights with Congress, but it is time that she, like so many Democrats, gets off the sinking ship.
For starters, recent polling shows voters don’t want a third Obama term. Understandably, they’d like a different economy, a different health-care reform, a different foreign policy and a different relationship between the White House and Congress. When almost two-thirds of voters think the country is on the wrong track, it’s time to get off it. The faster Hillary Clinton figures out how to run on the first Hillary Clinton term (or the third family Clinton term) and not the third Obama term, the better.
And as for Libya, her problem isn’t the White House spin during the 2012 campaign season; it is the collapse of the narrative that Libya was a success and al-Qaeda was on the run. Eli Lake’s latest report in the Daily Beast on Libya explains the extent of the problem:
In the nearly 20 months since the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attacks, al Qaeda operatives and allied terrorists have flocked to Libya, making the fragile North African country a hub for those seeking to wage jihad from north Africa, current and former U.S. counterterrorism officials tell The Daily Beast.
Not only does al Qaeda host Ansar al-Sharia, one of the militias responsible for the Benghazi attacks that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. But U.S. intelligence now assesses that leaders from at least three regional al Qaeda affiliates—al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and members of the organization of Al-Mulathameen Brigade loyal to Algerian terrorist, Mokhtar BelMokhtar—have all established havens in the lawless regions of Libya outside the control of the central government.
One U.S. military contractor working on counter-terrorism in Africa summed up the situation in Libya today as simply, “Scumbag Woodstock.” The country has attracted that star-studded roster of notorious terrorists and fanatics seeking to wage war on the West.
The situation in Syria is just as grim. Thousands of jihadis now have set up shop there. The result of delay and inaction by the Obama administration, which could have acted to push Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over the edge when there were hundreds or just dozens of such forces, is another breeding ground for terror (and polio, starvation, mass atrocities, etc.).
The administration’s recent report on terrorism detailed the extent to which al-Qaeda terror is on the increase. CNN reports:
Al Qaeda’s central leadership and its ability to direct operations from beyond its base in Pakistan has diminished, but its affiliate organizations, along with other terror groups, have grown more dangerous, according to a new report from the State Department.
“The terrorist threat continued to evolve rapidly in 2013, with an increasing number of groups around the world – including both AQ affiliates and other terrorist organizations – posing a threat to the United States, our allies, and our interests,” the annual report on global terrorism trends found.
In the report, the State Department said ongoing efforts to degrade and eliminate the organization led by Ayman al-Zawahiri have “accelerated the decentralization” of al Qaeda. But those steps have led to groups like its affiliate in Yemen, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, to take advantage of conditions on the ground to “broaden and deepen their operations,” become more autonomous and focus on their own goals of attacking the United States and other western governments.
Zawahiri has experienced difficulty in commanding influence and ordering directives throughout the group’s affiliate structure, the report said, noting an increase in violent attacks by affiliate groups against civilian populations in their areas of operations.
In addition to the more deadly attacks, the decentralization of al-Qaeda has led affiliates to increase their financial independence through increased kidnappings for ransom and criminal activity like extortion and credit card fraud, the report found. . . .
The report cited 9,707 terrorist attacks in 2013, a 43% increase from 2012, according to statistics compiled by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. Attacks resulted in more than 17,800 deaths and more than 32,500 injuries. The majority took place in Afghanistan, India, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Somalia, Syria, Thailand and Yemen.
Last year’s most lethal incidents were carried out by the Taliban in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, Nigeria’s Boko Haram, al Qaeda in Iraq, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and ISIL, according to the report.
Recall that Hillary Clinton was unable to negotiate a status of forces agreement to leave U.S.. forces in Iraq. Now we see:
While Iran and its Shia proxies led by the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah continue to support the al-Assad regime, many foreign jihadists are traveling to Syria to fight with al Qaeda-aligned groups like the Nusra Front. A number of governments are concerned those fighters will eventually return to their home countries to carry out attacks of their own.
Next door in Iraq, a weak security environment in the western section of the country along with the de-stabilizing effects of the situation in Syria have allowed a former al Qaeda affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, to move across the border with ease to conduct its own attacks.
Terrorist groups operating in ungoverned areas of Africa also continue to pose a threat. While the report cites operations by al-Shabaab in east Africa, and terrorist groups operating in Nigeria, Mali and Algeria, the report also singles out Libya as an area of concern and instability.
Rather than worrying about the White House’s e-mail problem, Clinton and her allies should be worrying about her own al-Qaeda problem. Did she attempt to implement policies that would have thwarted the revitalization of al-Qaeda? Maybe she was the lonely voice of reason in the administration. The alternative explanation is that all of this was the result of a failed, consistent Obama-Clinton-John Kerry foreign policy that she embraced and implemented, a “light footprint” mentality that allowed terrorism to fester while the administration was consumed with domestic politics. If she is not responsible at least in part for this horrible turn of events, who is?
Clinton might actually benefit from the Benghazi e-mail distraction. While the White House and Congress are fighting over whether Rhodes and the rest of the NSC were incompetent or dishonest, Hillary Clinton can start working on her rebuttal to the charge that she and the policies she followed allowed al-Qaeda to recover and thrive. Unless she does, the public will want a commander in chief in 2016 who rejects the Obama-Clinton-Kerry anti-terror approach, which it turns out, was a complete failure.