Yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the September 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya. There were more questions than answers.
Rather than provide new insight into the attack, Secretary Clinton simply reiterated what previous Administration witnesses had testified to in previous hearings. She highlighted the findings made by the Accountability and Review Board and took responsibility for the failings of the State Department to prevent the deaths of the four Americans killed in the attack, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens.
Yet despite being asked repeatedly about the rapid deterioration of security in North Africa and the Sahel, and the implications for U.S. national security, Clinton defended the Obama Administration’s narrative that al-Qaeda is “on the run,” with one caveat, that international terrorists are broadening their focus to targets outside of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Since the Qadhafi regime fell in September 2011, North Africa and the Sahel have felt the fallout firsthand. When well-armed Tuareg fighters left Libya and returned to their homeland in Mali, they set off a chain of events. Last Spring, a coalition of terrorist groups occupied northern Mali, leading France to militarily intervene earlier this month. Then, last week, a former leader of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) launched an attack on an Algerian gas facility, killing three Americans.
While Clinton acknowledged the “spreading jihadist threat,” she failed to explain what steps the Obama Administration has taken to address it. Rather, she conceded, “We can kill leaders, but until we help establish strong democratic institutions, until we do a better job with values and relationships, we will be faced with this level of instability.”
The Obama Administration’s failure to contain the security vacuum following the Qadhafi regime’s collapse, which it helped bring down, indirectly contributed to the proliferation of terrorist activity throughout the region. Yet it’s unclear how the Administration will attempt to address it. One thing’s for sure: Secretary Clinton isn’t waiting around to find out.