EDITORIAL: Strike versus stumble

Response to terrorism in Algeria underscores U.S. weakness in Benghazi

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Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday finally gave an extensive account of what did and did not happen to prevent the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Her testimony before both House and Senate committees came in the wake of the terrorist assault in Algeria that ended Saturday. It’s becoming more clear that the ongoing lack of American resolve in the region is emboldening Islamic militants.

As Mrs. Clinton explained, “There’s no doubt that the Algerian terrorists had weapons from Libya. There’s no doubt that the Malian remnants of [al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb] have weapons from Libya. So we just have to do a much better job.”

The four-day siege of an internationally run natural-gas facility located at In Amenas in eastern Algeria ended with the deaths of 37 employees from eight different countries. Details are still unfolding about the attack and its consequences, but it’s clear those raiding the Saharan facility were bent on carrying out suicide terrorism. The Algerian government didn’t hesitate to send its army to deal decisively with the situation. Though it resulted in both militant and hostage deaths, it’s hard to imagine another response to the terrorists’ cross-border incursion that would have had a better outcome, considering the terrorists didn’t come there to “negotiate.”

Algerian and American counterterrorism operatives are now likely to join efforts in going after the Algerian reputed to be the attack’s mastermind, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, in his hideouts in western Libya. In the past, he has been involved in a series of kidnappings of European tourists, netting him millions of dollars in ransom money used to bankroll his operations. Last year, Belmokhtar was responsible for the militant takeover of a town in northern Mali.

There is a risk that pursuing Belmokhtar and his allies could spark a wider conflict, but it’s too important not to fight back. From early reports, we now know that the terrorists came from Egypt, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Tunisia, so the net must inevitably be wide. Although Belmokhtar is warning that there will be more attacks on those who took part in the military campaign in neighboring Mali against al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists, there can be no doubt that Algeria’s decisive action will remind radical Islamists that at least one country won’t be intimidated by their aggression.

The West is confronted with an Islamist threat lurching from North Africa wielding global ambitions. As we learned in Benghazi and in Algeria, terrorism does not wait. Decisiveness and preparedness, not hand-wringing, is the only appropriate response.

The Washington Times

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