Monday, August 05, 2013

Connecting Dots or Making Up Dots?

Are we in the middle of a quiet struggle with al Qaeda over our diplomatic facilities? If so, get used to this. The war has already been long, and just because we are tired of fighting it doesn't mean our enemies are tired of killing us.

We have extended the closures of 19 diplomatic facilities out of the 21 originally shut, and we also closed facilities in Madagascar, Burundi, Rwanda and Mauritius.

Interpol has warned that the surge of jihadi prison attacks could be linked:

Following a series of prison escapes across nine INTERPOL member countries in the past month alone, including in Iraq, Libya and Pakistan, the INTERPOL General Secretariat headquarters has issued a global security alert advising increased vigilance.

With suspected Al Qaeda involvement in several of the breakouts which led to the escape of hundreds of terrorists and other criminals, the INTERPOL alert requests the Organization’s 190 member countries’ assistance in order to determine whether any of these recent events are coordinated or linked.

If linked, could al Qaeda be trying to tie down international anti-terrorist assets by giving them more terrorists to track and recapture? Is this a set-up for making an attack on one of our diplomatic facilities?

I've noted that the jihadi attack on our Benghazi facilities could have been a hostage situation given our failure to react quickly with real force. Do the jihadis now regret their lost opportunity?

Is this renewed determination bolstered both by success in hitting us at Benghazi and their regret at failing to really exploit their success (perhaps feeling there was no way they'd get as far as they did) the reason we can hear this assessment of the return of al Qaeda?

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Sunday called the latest terror threat“scary,” and said that an emboldened al Qaeda has been “on steroids”since the last year's deadly strike on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya.

Is this related to al Qaeda's Zawahri assurance to his listeners that he had not forgotten prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and would work to release them? Are the many attacks on prisons already the first part of this promise to free jihadis?

I did speculate--out of nearly nothing bolstered by my thoughts of what I'd do if I was an al Qaeda nutball--that an assault on Guantanamo Bay would be in my play book. Yes, it would be suicidal. But many jihadi attacks are suicidal and only attempt to achieve good press coverage. Imagine the press coverage of a jihadi assault on our Cuba prison?!

A more conventional speculation is that al Qaeda wants to seiza an American diplomatic facility to trade hostages for prisoners. That would be a continuation of the jail breaks rather than being the ultimate aim of jail breaks designed to keep us busy.

On the other hand, are we simply reacting to shadows? (Tip to Instapundit) I don't hold with the idea that real jihadis wouldn't make the mistake of using communications known to be monitored. They make mistakes. Or think it is too late. Or maybe a non-"real" jihadi hears about the operation and starts the blabbing.

Sadly, we seemed more interested in spiking the ball last year (our president's mission-accomplished speeches declaring Osama dead and al Qaeda on the run lacked only the banner) than in finishing off a reeling al Qaeda.

So the war goes on rather than receding, as promised. So we need to be prepared to fight around our embassies and not just close them down every time we hear chatter.

Clearly, the State Department army is not sufficient to protect our facilities. They kept the 9/11 Benghazi attacks last year from becoming a massacre or hostage situation, but their success was probably as much about a jihadi lost opportunity as their bravery and skill. So we will need to be ready to fight for those embassies and consulates.

Remember the map of the original closures?

They are largely close to Europe. Where we have a still-sizable military presence. Why, I asked, didn't we dispatch forces from Europe to Benghazi when the enemy attacked?

Which raises the issue of keeping a sizable, ready, and well-rounded military presence in Europe--which I've long called for to be able to react to events in an arc of crisis stretching from West Africa to Central Asia--which matches very closely with that diplomatic facility closure map, no?

I wasn't thinking of rescuing embassies--although I did cite a September 2002 deployment from Europe to Ivory Coast to protect American citizens as an example of what Europe-based American forces could do. But if we faced an embassy attack tomorrow at one of those closed facilities, I think it is safe to assume that now we'd move military units rather than let them sit passively by hoping State Department and CIA assets would be sufficient.

You never know when dots will be real and connected. This is a long war for a reason. As I pleaded long ago, let's kill the dots.

UPDATE: Stratfor notes that the big reaction to recent threats might not have taken place had we not failed to react to Benghazi:

As the threat persists, however, that fact remains that many warnings are issued for threats that never actually materialize. Warnings can be invalidated by bad information, deliberate disinformation or postponed or canceled plots. This is especially true of global, non-specific warnings, such as those against U.S. embassies in the Middle East and Asia in mid-2001.

In the post-Benghazi political environment, warnings issued by the U.S. government are likely evidence that Washington is acting out of an overabundance of caution -- no politician or bureaucrat wants to experience another Benghazi. Overreacting is seen as preferable to the risks of failing to warn at all.

Also, they point out that threats are more acute overseas where al Qaeda lives than the threat is back here.

Still, an abudndance of caution does not explain why we'd leak the source of the worry as intercepted communications between Zawahri and another top al Qaeda leader. WTF?

UPDATE: Yemen appears to be the center of the broad threat given that we evacuated non-essential people from our embassy and executed a drone strike on jihadis there:

The U.S. military evacuated non-essential U.S. government personnel from Yemen on Tuesday due to the high risk of attack by al-Qaida that has triggered temporary shutdowns of 19 American diplomatic posts across the Middle East and Africa. ...

Yemeni security officials said a suspected U.S. drone strike at about 2 a.m. local time Tuesday killed four alleged al-Qaida members in a volatile eastern province of the country. The drone fired a missile at a car carrying the four men, setting it on fire and killing all of them, the officials said.

At least we have four more good jihadis in all the confusion surrounding the mass shutdown.