In the days following ISIS’ beheading of American journalist James Foley, rumors that President Obama dragged his feet on the military mission to rescue him have surfaced. Well, those rumors surfaced once the administration leaked the mission itself.
The mission failed, according to the Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in a briefing last week, because the terrorists had moved their captives.
Toby Harnden reports that the US had developed good intelligence regarding where ISIS was holding Foley. But President Obama delayed the mission by a month.
Pentagon sources said Foley and the others might well have been rescued but Obama, concerned about the ramifications of US troops being killed or captured in Syria, took too long to authorise the mission.
Anthony Shaffer, a former lieutenant-colonel in US military intelligence who worked on covert operations, said: “I’m told it was almost a 30-day delay from when they said they wanted to go to when he finally gave the green light. They were ready to go in June to grab the guy [Foley] and they weren’t permitted.”
Another US defence source said: “The White House constantly goes back and forth on these things. These people are a bunch of academics who endlessly analyse stuff and ordering up another deep-thinking paper but can’t decide what to order for lunch.”
According to Harnden’s report, when US forces arrived they did find a swarm of terrorists there. The captives themselves had been moved to another location.
ISIS emailed a threat to Foley’s life on August 13, five days after President Obama ordered airstrikes on ISIS positions in Iraq. The emailed threat said that Foley would die in retaliation for the airstrikes.
Harnden also reports that President Obama has not viewed the video of Foley’s beheading. Obama was “briefed on its contents” as he flew to Martha’s Vineyard for vacation and several rounds of golf. Obama did make a public statement on the brutal murder, minutes before he made his way to the golf course again.
Over at Hot Air, Allahpundit wonders why Obama would drag his feet on this mission for a month. Obama wasn’t facing re-election, and unlike the bin Laden mission, the mission to rescue Foley would have been in enemy territory — meaning that it carried fewer potential diplomatic downsides. True enough.
Obama reportedly dragged his feet on the bin Laden mission, too. This president seems to be very uncomfortable with command, and with authorizing missions that showcase the power and prestige of the US military. Plus, as the military types note above, Obama is an academic and not a leader. He voted “present” by habit in the Illinois Senate and was a partisan backbencher in the US Senate. Barack Obama is much more comfortable ordering verbal strikes on Republicans than he is ordering air and SEAL strikes on our actual enemies.