U.S. special forces carried out two attacks last weekend in Africa. One, in Libya, apprehended an indicted al-Qaeda terrorist. The other, in Somalia, failed to nab a Kenyan who is believed to have been involved in various terrorist acts.
The Libyan, known as Abu Anas al-Liby, was captured in Tripoli in broad daylight. Linked to the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, he is being questioned aboard a Navy ship and is expected to be taken to the United States for trial.
Efforts to grab the Kenyan of Somali origin, Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir, had to be abandoned in Somalia in the face of heavy fire encountered by U.S. forces.
Although the actions entailed considerable planning, the timing of their executions served as a brief distraction for the nation from the federal government’s shutdown.
The abduction in Libya embarrassed and enraged its government, even though some Libyan officials may have been aware of the plan in advance. Law and order there are deteriorating rapidly.
Russia abandoned its embassy in Tripoli after a mob assaulted it last week. The United States continues to be angry that Libyan authorities have not yet captured the killers of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other American officials last year in Benghazi.
The U.S. raid in Somalia was likely in response to the Somali al-Shabab attack on a mall in Nairobi, Kenya, two weeks earlier. More than 60 people died in the mall rampage; none of the victims has been identified as American.
The U.S. military has been involved off and on in Somalia since 1992. Today there is no effective government to be offended by the weekend action.
A question for Americans is whether Libyan or Somali elements will seek revenge in the United States for the actions. The value of the two attacks will have to be assessed in that context, and in the added measures of security that may need to follow in this country.