When a window of opportunity opened to strike the leader of al-Qaeda in East Africa last September, U.S. Special Operations forces prepared several options. They could obliterate his vehicle with an airstrike as he drove through southern Somalia. Or they could fire from helicopters that could land at the scene to confirm the kill. Or they could try to take him alive.
The White House authorized the second option. On the morning of Sept. 14, helicopters flying from a U.S. ship off the Somali coast blew up a car carrying Saleh Ali Nabhan. While several hovered overhead, one set down long enough for troops to scoop up enough of the remains for DNA verification. Moments later, the helicopters were headed back to the ship.
The strike was considered a major success, according to senior administration and military officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the classified operation and other sensitive matters. But the opportunity to interrogate one of the most wanted U.S. terrorism targets was gone forever.
I’m not sure what to make of this. If this report had come out under the Bush Administration, no doubt I would have been critical, but I still would have tried to understand. This certainly shifts the debate on which party is tougher on terrorism. According to the report, "The Obama administration has authorized such attacks more frequently than the George W. Bush administration did in its final years, including in countries where U.S. ground operations are officially unwelcome or especially dangerous." Republicans charge that the administration has been too reluctant to risk an international incident or a domestic lawsuit to capture senior terrorism figures alive and imprison them, according to the Post.
I’m not ready to render judgment — need to keep reading, see if there really has been a shift in policy, or if this article represents the armchair conclusions of a pair of journalists.
At least we don’t have to worry about charges of waterboarding under President Obama.