Mali ambassador nixed hit on terrorist in 2003

Washington Post:
The U.S. military was closely tracking a one-eyed bandit across the Sahara in 2003 when it confronted a hard choice that is still reverberating a decade later. Should it try to kill or capture the target, an Algerian jihadist named Mokhtar Belmokhtar, or let him go?

Belmokhtar had trained at camps in Afghanistan, returned home to join a bloody revolt and was about to be blacklisted by the United Nations for supporting the Taliban and al-Qaeda. But he hadn’t attacked Americans, not yet, and did not appear to pose a threat outside his nomadic range in the badlands of northern Mali and southern Algeria.

Military commanders planned to launch airstrikes against Belmokhtar and a band of Arabs they had under surveillance in the Malian desert, according to three current and former U.S. officials familiar with the episode. But the ambassador to Mali at the time said she vetoed the plan, arguing that a strike was too risky and could stir a backlash against Americans.

Since then, Belmokhtar has gradually built a Qaeda-branded network while expanding his exploits as a serial kidnapper, smuggler and arms dealer. Last month, his group, Signatories in Blood, took dozens of hostages at a natural-gas complex in Algeria. At least 38 foreign captives were killed, including three Americans.

In addition to raising his global profile, the spectacular attack turned Belmokhtar into a symbol of how the United States over the past 10 years bungled an ambitious strategy to prevent al-Qaeda from gaining a foothold in North and West Africa.

The U.S. government has invested heavily in counterterrorism programs in the region, spending more than $1 billion since 2005 to train security forces, secure borders, promote democracy, reduce poverty and spread propaganda.
One of the problems the US has had going back at least as far as teh Vietnam war has been allowing ambassadors to overrule commanders on targeting enemy operatives in the country the ambassador is serving in.  It is like they have a higher loyalty to the host country than they do to the US.  Of course whacking a bad guy in the host country will complicate things for the ambassador, but they knew the job was difficult when they took it.

This is a long story about how this bad guy built his gang over the last 10 years and has become a much bigger problem than just having to explain his demise for some ambassador.  We should have whacked him when we had the chance.  Now he is running dope to Europe to support his terrorist network and Obama is in full retreat which the French try to bail out his Libya/Mali fiasco.


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