Secretary of State John Kerry has justified the capture by US forces of a terrorism suspect in Tripoli as ‘legal and appropriate’. He thus responded to Libya governments’ demand for explanations over what happened.
Kerry has reacted to the ‘kidnapping’ complaint from the Libyan government by recommending it “not to sympathize with alleged terrorists but to underscore the importance of the rule of law.”
“I hope the perception is in the world that people who commit acts of terror and who have been appropriately indicted by courts of law, by the legal process, will know that the United States of America is going to do anything in its power that is legal and appropriate in order to enforce the law and to protect our security,” Kerry told reporters on Monday.
Libya voiced its concern on Sunday, a day after US forces captured in Tripoli a suspected senior Al-Qaeda leader, Nazih Abdul-Hamed Ruqai, known by his alias Abu Anas el-Liby, wanted for his alleged role in the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.
“The Libyan government is following the news of the kidnapping of a Libyan citizen who is wanted by US authorities,” Prime Minister Ali Zeidan said as cited by Reuters. “The Libyan government has contacted US authorities to ask them to provide an explanation.”
Zeidan reportedly fears that if he is accused of complicity with the US over the capture of Liby, which could lead to his confrontation with the Islamist part of the government that came to power following West-helped Muammar Gaddafi’s ousting two years ago.
Instead of contributing to security, the US raid in Libya might lead to just the opposite, according to Abdul Bassit Haroun, a former Islamist militia commander who works with the Libyan government.
“This won’t just pass,” Haroun said, as cited by Reuters. “There will be a strong reaction in order to take revenge because this is one of the most important Al-Qaeda figures.”
Western experts agree. Historian and writer Jay Janson is doubtful operations, like the one in Libya, are going to solve anything.
“They eliminated the Al-Shabaab leader a couple of years ago. It didn’t mean anything. Al-Shabaab became stronger. After Bin Laden is gone, Al-Qaeda is stronger everywhere,” he told RT.
The same day the US forces captured Liby in Tripoli, they also made an attempt at seizing Al-Shabaab leader in Somalia. The operation was conducted by a US Navy SEAL team. Reports of the outcome are conflicting with some saying the team was forced to withdraw before it could confirm any casualties, and others insisting some of Al-Shabaab militants were killed.
Citing an American official, AP reported that the counter-terrorism raid was targeted at Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir.
Seth G. Jones, a counterterrorism expert at the RAND Corp. and former military adviser has in an interview with AFP praised the raids by special forces, as they result in fewer civilian casualties than drone strikes and also allow for interrogation of suspects. At the same time he warned of potential risks of specifically targeting terrorist organizations’ leaders.
Jones gave an example from recent history when a Pakistani group, Tehreek-e-Taliban, was “fairly parochial” until a US drone strike killed its leader Baitullah Mehsud in 2009. The group allegedly responded with a 2010 failed car bombing attempt in New York’s Times Square.
“The US has to be careful with direct engagement with Al-Shabaab as it leaves open the possibility that they may attempt to strike back against the United States in East Africa or may try to do it outside East Africa,” Jones said.
There’s also an opinion that no matter how targeted and small-scale US military operations might be – it’s still a wrong path to go, which only leads to more violence. Michael Shank, director of foreign policy at the pacifist Friends Committee on National Legislation, says that the US should better focus on economic development of the areas.
“It appears that past US precedent in Libya and Somalia – that of bombing, not building, societies – continues on, unmoved by the failures of past US policy,” he said. “As a result, be prepared for more instability on the continent, not less.”