A Symbolic Failure

The failed rescue attempt that ended with the murder of an American photojournalist and a South African teacher at the hands of al-Qaida terrorists in Yemen was another blow to U.S.-led efforts to fight terrorism.

President Obama had ordered the risky predawn raid in the village of Abadan, located in the rugged Shabwa province, on Friday, a day after an al-Qaida affiliate released a video threatening to kill American Luke Somers within three days, unless their unspecified demands were met.

Some 40 American special operations forces, backed by Yemeni ground forces, were within 110 yards of the compound in Shabwa province when something went very wrong. After they were spotted by the terrorists, a firefight followed. By the time they reached the building where the hostages had been held, both Somers and Pierre Korkie of South Africa had been shot by their captors. Both died soon thereafter.

Korkie was reportedly about to be released by his captors, after the terrorists had dropped their previous demand for a $3 million ransom and settled on a $200,000 “facilitation fee” for the tribal leaders working directly with al-Qaida. This sum had been raised by Korkie’s family and friends, and that very morning the South African relief group leading the negotiations had told Korkie’s wife that “the wait is almost over.”

In his statement about the failed mission, President Obama asserted: “It is my highest responsibility to do everything possible to protect American citizens. As this and previous hostage rescue operations demonstrate, the United States will spare no effort to use all of its military, intelligence and diplomatic capabilities to bring Americans home safely, wherever they are located. And terrorists who seek to harm our citizens will feel the long arm of American justice.”

But this was the second failed attempt to rescue Somers, and the third failed U.S.-led hostage raid since July that failed to rescue its target alive.

This botched mission is widely viewed by both America’s enemies and allies as another sign of failed leadership in Washington, of another indication that the world’s last remaining superpower is unable to regain its momentum in the worldwide fight against terror.

The United States, a nation that once symbolized strength and perseverance on the international stage, is now viewed as weak and failing to live up to its obligations as leader of the free world.

In Moscow, President Putin continues to scoff at America’s response to his land grab that saw Russia swallow part of Ukraine; and despite a ceasefire accord, Russian-backed rebels continue to battle the West-leaning government in Kiev.

The much-heralded battle against the Islamic State, a terror group that also goes by the name, ISIL, ISIS, and Daesh, and has seized much of Iraq and Syria, is limping along. Last Wednesday, nearly three months after the anti-Islamic State coalition was supposedly formed, the first ministerial-level meeting was held in Brussels, Belgium.

While Secretary of State John Kerry tried his best to give an optimistic portrayal of the latest developments, for those who chose to read between the lines, the news was grim.

“The roughly 1,000 coalition air missions that we have flown have reduced Daesh’s leadership and inflicted damage on its logistical and operational capabilities. In much of Iraq, Daesh’s earlier momentum has dissipated,” Kerry said.

“With coalition support, Iraqi forces have regained ground at Mosul and Haditha dams,” Kerry continued. “They have retaken territory in the vicinity of Tikrit and expanded the security perimeter around the Baiji oil refinery. In the north and west, Kurdish troops are battling bravely and Sunni tribal fighters are beginning to come on board.”

In other words, the approximately 1,000 air strikes have done little more than stop this fiendish terror group from seizing even more land than it already has, and the hodgepodge of various forces that are actually fighting it on the ground have managed to retake some territory near one city, and expanded the security perimeter around an oil refinery. As for the north and west of Iraq, rest assured — the Kurds are battling bravely. …

In Syria, where U.S. forces conducting bombing raids against ISIL are ironically coming to the aid of the brutal dictatorship of Assad, the news is hardly better. According to Kerry, in Syria, “Daesh has seen its command facilities attacked, its oil infrastructure damaged, and its siege of Kobani blocked. It is much harder now than when we started for Daesh to assemble forces in strength, to travel in convoys, and to launch concerted attacks. No large Daesh unit can move forward aggressively without worrying about what will come down on it from the skies.”

But there is no word about any territories being ceded or any real legitimate counterforce on the ground against ISIL — other than the Assad regime, which is detested by the West and despised by his own people.

In the meanwhile, support for ISIL is growing rapidly within Jordan, a country that neighbors Syria, Iraq and Israel.

Three years after U.S.-led airstrikes helped topple the dictatorship of Muammar Gadhafi, Libya is torn between numerous armed militias and terror groups. ISIL has now set up training camps in eastern Libya, illustrating yet another glaring American foreign policy disaster.

President Obama announced last week that he was nominating Ashton Carter to replace Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense. Carter is a broadly respected individual who is expected to easily win Senate approval. But it will take much more than a change of leadership at the Pentagon for America to regain the trust of the world. n