“It’s safe to say that counterterrorism has been a critical prism through which the Algerian-U.S. bilateral relationship has been developing for some time,” a senior State Department official told reporters on background on the way to Algiers. “When the administration came into office, it was evident that we had a natural affinity with Algeria and we had a shared concern about al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.”
The administration provided a background briefing to reporters after today’s talks, too, which consisted of a 90-minute meeting followed by a two-hour lunch.
“Virtually the entire meeting portion focused on our counterterrorism cooperation and Mali, and they agreed that we need to now work together to build on our existing strong U.S.-Algerian counterterrorism cooperation to work together against the problems that are being exported from Mali and to help Bamako and ECOWAS with the AU and the UN support as well deal with the security threats inside of Mali,” a senior State Department official said. “The Secretary made reference a number of times to the regional leadership Algeria displays in counterterrorism.”
The official said Clinton thanked Bouteflika “for the very strong security support that we had for our Embassy around September 11 and afterwards.”
“Algeria was another place where extremists tried to stir up trouble against our Embassy and were unsuccessful,” the official added.
The State Department issued an “emergency message” for U.S. citizens the day after the Libya assault, warning that “groups, via different social media websites, are calling for demonstrations in front of the U.S. Embassy beginning at 12:00 p.m. local time today to protest a range of issues.”
While not specifically mentioning the anti-Muhammed video originally blamed in the Benghazi attack, the notice also didn’t warn U.S. citizens of terrorist activity in the region.
Benghazi — and even the presidential election in a matter of days — was outshadowed by coverage of Hurricane Sandy today.
“I tell you, I’m going to fight every step of the way to just make sure that the truth surfaces and, thus far, that has not happened,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said today on Fox.
While Clinton may have tried to deflect the criticism with diplomacy, President Obama said in an interview aired today on MSNBC he takes “offense” at “some suggestion in any way we haven’t tried to make sure that the American public knew as information was coming in what we believed happened” on Sept. 11 in Benghazi.