U.S. intelligence officials are putting the final touches on plans to go after members of Ansar al-Sharia, a militia group that doesn't even exist anymore, suspected to be involved in the attack on the Libyan embassy that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others.
The New York Times' Eric Schmitt reports about a dozen so-called "target packages" are being prepared on the militants suspected to have been involved in the September 11 attacks on the American consulate in Benghazi. With cooperation from Libyan authorities, they've been able to identify a group of targets who were a part of the militia group Ansar al-Sharia based on eye-witness accounts and photos from the embassy attack.
The Daily Beast and the Wall Street Journal have reported intelligence officials intercepted conversations where members of Ansar al-Sharia bragged about the attack to members of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Even though they had the support of the Al Queda affiliate, something that might indicate a certain level of complexity to the group, it didn't take much to unravel Ansar al-Sharia. It wasn't even U.S. intelligence officials who were responsible.
The group has been the main focus of intelligence investigations in Libya so far, especially because of their apparent al-Queda ties, but they no longer exist as a group. Ansar al-Sharia disbanded about a week ago. Libyan troops and citizens alike marched on Ansar al-Sharia compounds chanting 'say to Ansar al-Sharia, Benghazi will be your inferno' and the group retreated 'to preserve security.' Shortly after, when it became apparent operating in Libya was going to be difficult, they decided to call it quits.
How Obama will choose to attack suspects in Libya, or suspects who have fled to other countries in the area, remains to be seen. He could opt for a ground attack with Libyan authorities, or opt for a drone strike. Before any decisions are made Obama has to go over everything in classified meetings with top national security advisers, but Schmitt's report indicates actions are coming sooner rather than later.