U.S. Special Forces went into Tripoli and got their man, capturing an al-Qaeda operative without firing a shot, but now the Libyan government is claiming they had no advance warning of the operation, even though the Americans are claiming otherwise.
When news broke that American commandos captured longtime suspected al-Qaeda leader Abu Anas al-Libi over the weekend, U.S. officials told news outlets that the Libyan government approved the operation. It was "weeks or months" in advance, an American official concedes to The New York Times now, but the government couldn't claim complete ignorance. Libya, however, went the other way. Government officials started calling the operation a "kidnapping," and argued that al-Libi should be tried in Libya. (It should be noted here he was living openly in a suburb with his wife.) American officials had no idea terms of the deal changed.
Which is an issue, the Times reports, because when Libya approved al-Libi's capture they also approved an operation to capture one of the suspected militants involved in the September 11, 2012, attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that killed four Americans. Now the U.S. is vaguely kicking itself for not carrying out both operations at the same time:
It is not clear why American military commanders did not conduct both operations simultaneously to avoid this problem. Some military commanders said conditions in Libya on Saturday may not have been opportune. But the backlash against a second raid could bring down the government of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, which has teetered on the brink of collapse and has little control over vast parts of the country, particularly in the eastern part near Benghazi.
U.S. intelligence agencies are now worried Ahmed Abu Khattala, the second target in Libya, may flee the country or go underground. Khattala is the juice-sipping Libyan militant who the U.S. formally charged with murder for the Benghazi attacks last month.
Had the U.S. executed three separate, simultaneous, high-profile raids Saturday morning — the Navy's SEAL Team 6 against the al-Shabab in Somalia, Army's Delta Force against al-Libi in Libya, and another team against Khattala — then things really would have resembled an episode of Homeland.
[Pictured: John Kerry, left, US Secretary of State meets in New York with Ali Zeidan, right, Prime Minister of Libya during the 68th session of U.N. General Assembly Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013.]
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.