While Obama was doing his end zone dance during the election, he was well aware that he was selling Americans a false narrative of victory. The mission accomplished banner he was hanging was threadbare and he knew it.
As President Obama ran to election victory last fall with claims that al Qaeda was “decimated” and “on the run,” his intelligence team was privately offering a different assessment that the terrorist movement was shifting resources and capabilities to emerging spinoff groups in Africa that posed fresh threats to American security.
Top U.S. officials, including the president, were told in the summer and fall of 2012 that the African offshoots were gaining money, lethal knowledge and a mounting determination to strike U.S. and Western interests while keeping in some contact with al Qaeda’s central leadership, said several people directly familiar with the intelligence.
The gulf between the classified briefings and Mr. Obama’s pronouncements on the campaign trail touched off a closed-door debate inside the intelligence community about whether the terrorist group’s demise was being overstated for political reasons, officials told The Washington Times.
Many Americans believed when they voted in November that the president was justifiably touting a major national security success of his first term. After all, U.S. special operations forces succeeded in May 2011 in capturing and killing the al Qaeda founder and original leader, Osama bin Laden, in Pakistan.
But key players in the intelligence community and in Congress were actually worried that Mr. Obama was leaving out a major new chapter in al Qaeda’s evolving story in order to bend the reality of how successful his administration had been during its first four years in the fight against terrorism.
If Obama isn’t allowed to bend reality into new and more interesting shapes, how is he supposed to win elections? By running on his record?
Key attackers were identified early as belonging to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). A video message sent by al-Zawahri on the night before the incident explicitly called for attacks on Americans in Libya to avenge a fatal U.S. drone strike on a Libyan-born senior al Qaeda operative in Pakistan.
The message was almost immediately identified as a possible motivation, or trigger, for the Benghazi attack.
Despite being briefed on it privately, Mr. Obama and his surrogates resisted portraying the attack as having been carried out, or even inspired by, al Qaeda. To the contrary, Mr. Obama — then in the throes of daily campaigning for re-election — appeared only to ramp up his narrative that the al Qaeda threat was diminished.
Politics comes first. It always comes first.