US prepares to strike Libyan militia suspected in Benghazi attack
The top-secret Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) is currently gathering information on the attack that killed a US ambassador and three other Americans, planning to launch drone strikes or raids against the suspects, the New York Times reportes.
“They are putting together information on where these individuals live, who their family members and their associates are, and their entire pattern of life,” an unnamed American official told the news organization.
While President Barack Obama has not yet ordered strikes on suspects, the JSOC is preparing what senior military officials call “target packages” in the case that he does make the order.
“Make no mistake, justice will be done,” the president said last month, making a promise to take action against the consulate’s attackers.
The dossiers come at a time when the Obama administration has faced criticism for its failure to accurately describe the cause of the attack. While the White House claimed the killings were a violent response to an anti-Muslim YouTube video, the attack was later determined to have been a terrorist attack planned for the Sept. 11 anniversary. The administration has also been condemned for providing inadequate security at a site that already had fears of rising terrorism.
But as the US contemplates administering drone strikes and raids, it may harm relations with Libya.
Strikes against the suspected attackers would require the US military to enter Libyan territory against the wishes of the national government. While Libyan Prime Minister Mustafa Abu Shagur called the assault on the US consulate “a cowardly, criminal and terrorist attack,” he said extremists in the country were a small minority that does “not number more than 100 or 150.” The prime minister expressed his opposition to having any foreign troops on Libyan soil.
“We will not accept anyone entering inside Libya,” he said. “That would infringe on sovereignty and we will refuse.”
Aside from 50 additional US Marines sent to guard the US embassy in Tripoli and two other diplomatic residences, Shagur said he would not tolerate more US troops entering the country.
The potential situation in Libya closely resembles US actions in Pakistan. The US has often faced criticism for violating Pakistan’s sovereignty by entering Federally Administered Tribal Regions (FATA) without permission. In June, Pakistan condemned the US for administering drone strikes on its territory, killing 27 people in just three strikes. The foreign ministry considers these kinds of attacks, which go against the wishes of the national government, illegal.
While infringing on the country’s sovereignty, the CIA-led drone campaign and raids also fuels anti-American sentiment, leading to further civilian deaths. The US has now damaged relations with its former ally, which causes speculation whether the situation Libya could become a second Pakistan.