Inspird by the Biden-Ryan donnybrook the NY Times provides this fact-check on the situation in Libya:
Mr. Romney has criticized the Obama administration for initially playing down Al Qaeda’s possible connection to the attacks last month in Benghazi, but some of his own statements on the assault have been misleading.
In a major foreign policy address on Monday, Mr. Romney said the attack was “likely the work of forces affiliated with those that attacked our homeland on Sept. 11, 2001.”
This suggests that Al Qaeda’s leadership in Pakistan, which planned and carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, was somehow responsible for the attack in Libya. That’s misleading. American intelligence analysts now believe that some of the militants involved in the attack were linked to groups affiliated with, or sympathetic to Al Qaeda’s franchise in North Africa, not the main Al Qaeda hierarchy.
Ah, well - our ambassador was killed by terrorists affiliated with terrorists affiliated with Al Qaeda, not by terrorists affiiated with A Qaeda. I feel safer already, and darn that Romney for trying to scare me.
Over at Foreign Affairs we are cautioned against slicing Al Qaeda too finely:
Still, most accounts of the progress of the war against al Qaeda contend that the organization is on the decline, pointing to its degraded capacity to carry out terrorist operations and depleted senior leadership as evidence that the group is at its weakest since 9/11. But such accounts treat the central al Qaeda organization separately from its subsidiaries and overlook its success in expanding its power and influence through them. These groups should not be ignored. All have attacked Western interests in their regions of operation. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has also long targeted the United States, but its efforts have moved beyond the execution stage only in the last two years, most recently with the foiled plot to bomb cargo planes in October 2010. And although al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has not yet attacked outside its region, al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) was reportedly involved in the June 2007 London and Glasgow bomb plots.
It is time for an updated conception of al Qaeda's organization that takes into account its relationships with its subsidiaries. A broader conceptual framework will allow for a greater understanding of how and to what degree it exercises command and control over its expanded structure, the goals driving its expansion strategy, and its tactics.
Well - while the Times is decrying vagueness, perhaps they can take on this claim by Obama from May 2012, while speaking about our effort in Afghanistan:
But over the last three years, the tide has turned. We broke the Taliban’s momentum. We’ve built strong Afghan security forces. We devastated al Qaeda’s leadership, taking out over 20 of their top 30 leaders. And one year ago, from a base here in Afghanistan, our troops launched the operation that killed Osama bin Laden. The goal that I set -- to defeat al Qaeda and deny it a chance to rebuild -- is now within our reach.
Hmm - does it count as "rebuilding" if Al Qaeda establishes affiliates in, just for example, Yemen, Iraq, Somalia, and North Africa? Or was Obama preparing to declare "victory" over Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan and pretend it was a complete victory? Baffling, and I await clarity from the Times.