As we learn more about the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi on September 11, it becomes harder and harder to ignore the probability that the militants involved were retaliating for a drone strike that took out a top al-Qaeda leader who happened to be Libyan. Christopher Chivvis puts this in context .
As details emerge, it appears increasingly probable that al Qaeda-linked groups were behind the violence, likely acting in reprisal for the death of Abu Yaya al-Libi, Al Qaeda’s second in command, who was killed by a drone strike in Pakistan earlier this year. Just prior to the Benghazi assault, on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri released an Internet video in which, according to CNN, he said that al-Libi’s “blood is calling, urging and inciting you to fight and kill the crusaders.”
Even if the deaths were not linked to al Qaeda or its dangerous North African affiliates, the event is still a major threat to Libya’s chances of successful transition to stability, and could be a watershed of the worst kind. The nightmare scenario that Libya could go the way of Iraq in 2004 is still not likely, but no longer seems implausible.
Perhaps just as ominous is the US reaction, which appears determined to perpetuate the cycle of violence. Drones visible to the naked eye flew over Libya in the past 48 hours, supplementing a dispatch of Marines and warships to the region. A few intelligence sources are on the ground but hampered by the fractious and dangerous nature of the country. In addition, the main CIA team in place moved on to Syria. Libyan authorities arrested what they said were four suspects in the killing of US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, but the