Links between Benghazi attackers and Algerian gas plant terrorists?
How blind is the Obama administration to the global threat of Islamic terrorism? The recent terror alert, which was precipitated by a conference call between 20 different al-Qaeda offshoots, along with the rise of jihadism in North Africa shows just how extensive these terrorist networks have become despite all the effort we've made to attack and cripple them.
Authorities sifting through the rubble of the Algerian gas plant attack from last year have made some troubling connections between those North African terrorists and those who attacked our diplomats in Benghazi.
Inquiries into the bloody assault on an Algerian gas plant are uncovering increasing evidence of contacts between the assailants and the jihadis involved in killing the U.S. ambassador to Libya nearly a year ago.
"And now the environment throughout the Maghreb has become conducive to expansion as well," said Tankel, who is writing a book on how jihadis adapted after the Sept 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
The extent of the contacts between the militants is still unclear and nobody is sure there was a direct link between the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and the carnage at In Amenas, where 39 foreign hostages were killed in January.
But the findings, according to three sources with separate knowledge of U.S. investigations, shed some light on the connections between Al Qaeda affiliates stretching ever further across North and West Africa.
The lack of detail, meanwhile, highlights the paucity of intelligence on jihadis whose rise has been fuelled by the 2011 Arab uprisings and who have shown ready to strike scattered Western targets including mines and energy installations.
That makes the region an even greater worry for Western countries at a time of heightened security over the threat of more al Qaeda attacks in the Middle East and North Africa.
At the center of the web is Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which has expanded far from its Algerian birthplace and now has links to other jihadi groups in Maghreb countries, including Tunisia and Libya. Their shared ideology combines with other, often financial, interests.
"Its leaders are survivors; they are opportunists," said Stephen Tankel, an Assistant Professor at American University in Washington.
Apparently, we've been nearly asleep at the wheel while these sophisticated networks have been developing in a strategically important part of the world. And the bottom line is that they seem to be growing stronger while we become relatively weaker.
Not a recipe for success or even progress.