October 4th, 2012
08:23 AM ET

After Benghazi, is al-Qaeda back?

By Fareed Zakaria

When trying to understand a strange action by the U.S. government, I have found it's usually best explained by incompetence rather than conspiracy. Republicans have claimed that the Obama Administration deliberately deceived the American public about the terrorist attack in Benghazi by describing it as a spontaneous mob uprising rather than a planned operation. But if the Administration knew from the start that it was a terrorist attack, did it really think that it could conceal this from the world? That the Libyan government would make no investigation? That there would be no eyewitnesses in a public place where hundreds had gathered? A far more plausible explanation is that in the chaotic aftermath of the attack, the Administration–too hastily and without proper analysis–put out the reports it was receiving. That's clumsy, but it's not treason.

The larger issue that the attack raises, however, which is fair game for a campaign conversation, is what the events in Benghazi tell us about terrorist organizations, in particular al-Qaeda. After years of being in retreat, is al-Qaeda back?

soundoff (40 Responses)
  1. the truth

    Well duh. Did it take all your brain cells to know this? Just because you kill Osama does not mean you wiped out an entire organization. Osama was nothing more than a figurehead.

    We will never win against radical islam unless we go on a genocide spree. Guess what? Al-Qaeda also used obama's "no fly-zone" to get into power. I wonder why obama declared war 2 weeks after gaddafi switched from the dollar to the dinar?

    October 4, 2012 at 9:04 am | Reply
  2. tommariner

    Yes, al Qaeda is on its way back. Four years ago we had those guys disbanded and dispirited. Then we took our foreign policy in a direction of being nice and all of us hoped that would let the fighters enjoy the fruits of civilization. Once they saw us announce a date certain for getting out of their favorite country, they knew (or felt) we were weak.

    Now we have to start all over again what we started ten years ago. Or wait for the next boom and fireball. What a disaster!

    October 4, 2012 at 9:07 am | Reply
    • Marine5484

      Are you trying to be funny tommariner, or are you just that gallable? Actually, Al Qaeda has never been that powerful and it's quite dubious that they could have pulled off 9/11 on their own. Please, don't put too much credence in what the government tells you as these right-wing politicians use fear in order to gain votes! Think about it, please!

      October 4, 2012 at 9:21 am | Reply
      • steve

        Yes , Yes , thousands of people conspired to do 9/11 ! It was George Bush ! It was George Bush that did the hits on the Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania . It was George Bush driving the truck into the army barracks in Beirut !
        Adolf Hitler killed millions of innocent people w/o the world knowing the true extent of this, that it was also beyond belief that someone can be so barbaric in a modern world and you are questioning whether 20 people couldn't hijack 4 different planes ? This is the truth whether your brain can handle it or not ! Deal with it !

        October 7, 2012 at 3:07 am |
    • LithAM

      What? Are you serious? Al Qaeda and the Taliban started inching back up while we were bogged down in the Iraq Debacle.

      October 10, 2012 at 6:39 pm | Reply
  3. matslats

    According to the alternative media at the time Al Quaeda linked-groups were funded and supported by NATO to take out Gadaffi and run the country. So saying they are 'back' is a bit disingenuous – they are our partners-in-crime.

    October 4, 2012 at 9:34 am | Reply
  4. deniz boro

    Watch "Canadian Bacon"

    October 4, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Reply
  5. Charlie Felt

    As they say.....

    "It is no secret that Hitler and his Nazi cronies sought inspiration from Indian extremist groups including the branding of his Nazi Party by adopting the Swastika, a traditionally Hindu symbol and representation of Hindu god Ganesha, as its marketing tool. The thesis being that like the Norwegian massacre the Jewish holocaust orchestrated by Hitler was inspired by the inherently violent cult of Indian Hindus and the manifesto of its then extremist/terrorist groups still in existence today. These groups are now the successors to and carrying out the vision of Al Qaeda all over the world albeit in a clandestine manner."

    October 4, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Reply
  6. JAL

    This is no time to be afraid of Al Qaeda. The Arab Spring environment in Libya now needs jobs growth to keep ALL Arab Spring initiatives moving forward. The liberators in Libya are being pulled in 2 directions. The Arab Spring direction and the chaos direction. It's our move. Sec Clinton needs to make it easier for any US company to quickly move infrastructure to Libya. Repair or support centers first.

    October 4, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Reply
    • the truth

      in other jobs, time to ship all american jobs to libya

      October 5, 2012 at 1:28 am | Reply
  7. Ferhat Balkan

    So long as there's financial backing behind a terrorist group, terrorism will continue. Fighting them directly by conventional means is like cutting the grass which just ends up growing back. Stop the flow of water and they'll dry and wither away.

    October 4, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Reply
  8. cnposter

    It's what happens when you turn over a country to maniacal, racist Islamists simply because you think they might let your corporations in as a reward.

    Happy Motoring!®

    October 5, 2012 at 2:53 am | Reply
  9. j. von hettlingen

    Al Qaeda inspires home-grown terrorists. Young Muslims born and brought up in a Western country feel disappointed and disaffected with their life and seek comfort in Jihadsim. These are Al Qaeda's Trojan Horse in the West.

    October 5, 2012 at 8:48 am | Reply
  10. Honesty is my policy

    Since Al Quada is a "state sponsored" orgonization started by the CIA in 1987 and used against the russians then, I have no comment because it would not be "state sponsored" and may not sway the peoples thinking towards Al quada being "the good guys."

    October 5, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Reply
  11. KEN SEON

    Mitt Romney will just come up with another bunch of lies to President Barak Obama's foreign policy achievements vis-a-vis Al Quaeda and other foreign policy challenges.

    October 5, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Reply
  12. DGG

    Thsi article just shows the uninteligence of reporters who are nothing less than english majors with an apple computer. They speak of peole getting killed like its ESPN is Tiger back he won a golf tournament but these are peoples lives an these guys use them to get there message out so keep it up Bumb@@@@

    October 5, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Reply
  13. Humanity4All

    Fareed, Libya is a country with no laws and no government, they are not our friends, they used us to get rid of Gaddafi.This is really a tragedy..

    October 5, 2012 at 9:21 pm | Reply
    • Andrey

      al-Qaeda used you to get rid of Gaddafi: and now they will feed and breed there. So the real disaster is only looming.

      October 6, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Reply
  14. thumbs up

    Attacks in our country and abroad from al queda has been something the US has had to deal with for nearly 2 decades. This will never change. Letting down our guard will result in a given weakness being probed and exploited. But the overarching lesson to be learned from this tragic event in Benghazi is to make sure to protect those who are attempting to protect our country. Beyond their being human beings, the loss of the skills of those 4 will be very difficult to replace. Hunting down and killing those responsible is needed but more importantly, so is securing the facilities and personnel so that such can be avoided in future.

    October 6, 2012 at 11:14 am | Reply
  15. Andrey

    al-Qaeda has instigated the whole Arab Spring crap using social media channels. It is as obvious as CIA organizing "opposition protests" in Russia in similar way!

    October 6, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Reply
  16. deniz boro

    Not Al Kaida maybe but Madonna's "Human Nature" is certainly back.

    October 6, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Reply
  17. deniz boro

    There was this news on how some health care volunteers crossed borders between Turkey and Syria carrying some self funded medicine to the people in need on CNN INT. Just than my TV channel went blank.. along with my internet. :) It is beyond me to see any meaning in this incident. There is an international organisation of doctors over borders. When will the political and military groups stop to think that the world society do not function according to their limited perspectives

    October 6, 2012 at 10:33 pm | Reply
  18. deniz boro

    Sorry Fareed I just can not seem to tune into your programs in Turkey. May be because I can not curb my opinions. I go back to cooking receippts as a proper Turkish Woman should do.

    October 6, 2012 at 10:36 pm | Reply
  19. steve

    Hold on a second ...Did Fareed say the Administration to hastily and w/o proper analysis put out FALSE reports ? Wasn't it President Obama chastising Romney about jumping the gun on his criticisms, w/o knowing all the facts about the American Embassy in Egypt being attacked by protesters ? Where Romney correctly stated that at NO time should Americans apologize for our beliefs to appease radicals ? Which was exactly what The American Embassy in Egypt did in attempt to stop these protesters ? ! Obama chastised Romney, then hours later making his own FALSE analysis on the White House Lawn with Hillary on Ben Ghazi !
    Fareed doesn't lead you to the entire picture . Let me enlighten you ..It has been already known that western administrations had been attacked in Ben Ghazi way before the incident on 9/11 . England pulled out their people months before . The American Ambassador had already asked for beefed up security , he was told NO . A high ranking Al Queda member was assassinated by a drone just days before 9/11 . So this was already enough fuel to know that our Ambassador is in area that is a hot bed for radicals , revenge is on the minds of Al Queda , 9/11 the most important day of terrorism is just around the corner . Who is responsible for the well being of our Ambassadors ? Hillary Clinton ! Who is responsible to pay attention to his morning briefings ? President Obama ! What President would bypass his briefings with his staff the day before or the day of 9/11 ? President Obama ! He missed 5 days of briefings with his staff before 9/11.After taking criticism, he sat with his staff everyday from 9/12 on . The whole administration for 1 week blamed a video . Where every person who knew a little about military strategy knew that this was a well orchestrated hit on the American Compound.In fact John Mccain scoffed on day 1 after 9/11 , saying "Protesters don't walk around with Mpg's and Mortars". The President of Libya said it was terrorists and asked for help, the day afterward . " CNN reporters found the Ambassador's diary on day 3 after the hit . They reported that it said that the Ambassador was already fearing for his life , that he was on an Al Queda hit list . Everything pointed to a a very calculated hit , but yet the administration was still blaming the video ! Why ? To say that you failed in taking responsibility for the Ambassador's well being , would destroy President Obama's Foreign policy outlook and kill his chances in being reelected . How could you take responsibility for being lax on 9/11 ,with your most important person in Libya, being in a neighborhood of the world, where they hate westerners, after you have been bragging "WE GOT BIN LADEN " ? Of course blame the video , its a good out ! To bad the the maker of the video had more security around him in L.A. then the Ambassador did in Libya on 9/11. There is plenty of incompetence to go around concerning this. This administration took the approach of sweeping this under the carpet , because 90% of all the media will look the other way , because they know that most people of America are more concerned on who won American Idol , then question the few tidbits they hear on the news !
    Fareed , you know it and I know it , you are part of the whole cover up . The cover up is being part in agreeing with a foolish policy and seeing it through at any expense . 20 countries had people in the streets burning the American flag and pictures of Obama. They hate what western society stands for . If its not enough to say the policy is wrong , think of this :Having new Khomeini style regimes pop up , does not move along a countries to a more modern outlook and look more favorably toward western society. In fact these countries , where 75% of their people , believed that radical Muslims hijackers were not responsible for 9/11 and that America or Israel conspired to do it. You can count on the reverse, that opinion will be going toward 90% under their new leadership. Speak the truth Fareed !

    October 7, 2012 at 2:39 am | Reply
  20. Roxana Russell

    All the media hoopla about who knew what, when, etc., I see as political posturing prior to our national elections. Frankly, I don't give a hoot whether the attack in Benghazi was orchestrated or spontaneous. Deal with those who performed the acts and move on. There was so much film footage available, any good investigator could work out who did what and when.

    October 7, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Reply
    • steve

      I'm proud of you that you don;t give a hoot that our American Ambassador was dragged through the streets , after he suffocated to death !
      Way to be an ignorant American ...When is American Idol starting back again ?

      October 9, 2012 at 12:24 am | Reply
  21. 2011cnn2011

    nuke al queada

    October 7, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Reply
  22. 2011cnn2011

    humans suck

    October 7, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Reply
  23. muchfohammad

    The Muslim Brotherhood is thriving! Thanks Obama!

    October 8, 2012 at 11:57 am | Reply
  24. Louis

    CNN has totally missed the boat on Libya. Wall Street Journal and other new outlets CBS are putting out comprehensive investigative reports on what happened in Libya. CNN has not even run a special on it. You had the ambassodor's diary, you had a reporter on site but downplayed her report. CNN used to be a news media that could be trusted but it seems you no longer do the investigating reporting that gives a comprehensive reports on what is happened. You seem to be more concerned with what President Obama thinks rather than to do fair honest comprehensive reporting. No wonder you have dropped to the number three news agency behind Fox and MSNBC

    October 9, 2012 at 9:51 pm | Reply
    • steve

      They have people like Fareed and Soleidad O'brein who talk to people as if they are educating people ...Reporting has gone out the window , when they both look to put their lefty spin on things, always indicating the glass is full with their perspective reporting, when it really is 1/2 empty .
      The double standard on how the press got all over Romney , who appeared as if he jumped the gun on commenting correctly on Egypt , but yet they all have given Obama a pass , on a murder of an American Ambassador , when they passed his murder as an angry mob protesting a video . They didn't heed their own advice , not to say something incorrectly unless you have all the info. I believe though that they passed it on this false info , because they have a gullible public and a press that is all to willing to do the right thing for the President !
      I mentioned the diary a week ago , that CNN had a horse in the race , you think Fareed would mention it ? I wouldn't be surprised that Fareed himself , was another cronie going in and out of the White House advising Obama on things, just like the CEO of GE who was advising on how to get jobs and stimulate the economy , GE who made Billions in profits , but didn't pay a penny in taxes and yet they own MSNBC, whose anchors cry foul when big corps. don't pay their fair share of taxes, not saying a word about their employers .
      Still CNN , although clearly to the left, is still more centered then Fox and MSNBC ! To get a good take you must take a combo of CNN and Fox and pay attention to some of their contributors who lean a little left or right but tend to call it more precise .

      October 10, 2012 at 2:01 am | Reply
  25. ronvan

    COMMON FOLKS!! Don't you understand that we are the "GOOD GUYS"? WE follow the rules!! And that is our problem!! When you play with pigs you expect to get dirty. These "people?" are NOT going to change, nor can we make them. Thier children are raised, from birth, by their parents, and their religion, that WE are the infidels and need to be destroyed!! Sooooo, what is the answer? (a) Bring ALL our military home! Shut down our embassy's, STOP any monies going to them, and for those americans that stay, well, your on your own!!! (b) Take off the "gloves"! Forget countries "foriegn soverity", if you have terrorists within your borders you WILL get hit! Let the DRONES loose, target everything that our & others intelligence shows a "possible" target (s). DO NOT worry about killing inocents, it is a fact of life during wars/conflicts! And make a STRONG STATEMENT, that IF any attack is done on american soil that , whatever country they come from, it will suffer the FULL might of our capabilities. NO boots on the ground just bomb them until THEY kill the terrorists, and if they move to another country you just follow them.

    October 10, 2012 at 9:13 am | Reply
  26. Sue

    Please give us more reporting on what happened in Benghazi, there is news here. I have been a CNN fan but you have shown your prejudice please stop it.

    October 28, 2012 at 10:19 am | Reply
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