The Conversation

Dr. Afridi and the Benghazi Hearings

The Benghazi hearings revealed that the Obama administration denied help--twice--to American diplomats as they were under attack. Newly-released emails reveal that the Obama administration deleted references to terror in the Benghazi talking points. During the attacks and their aftermath, the goal of the Obama administration was to minimize political fallout, above saving lives. Likewise with its treatment of Dr. Shakil Afridi. 

Dr. Afridi is the Pakistani physician whose vaccination program aimed to helped the U.S. confirm, through DNA samples, that the individual hidden in the Abbottabad compound was indeed Osama bin Laden. After the successful raid by Navy SEALs on May 2, the Pakistani government discovered of Dr. Afridi’s role and arrested him, convicting him of terror charges in a bogus judicial proceeding and sentencing him to 33 years in prison.

Since then, the Obama administration has done little but offer lip service to Dr. Afridi’s cause, despite strong bipartisan support for pressuring the Pakistani government to free him. In fact, under questioning from Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) in April, Secretary of State John Kerry seemed to imply that Dr. Afridi deserved some measure of his punishment because, after all, he had violated Pakistani laws against espionage.

The deaths of four American diplomats in Benghazi and the abandonment of a U.S. intelligence asset in Peshawar send a signal that America no longer protects its own, or its allies. It is a theme that has echoed throughout the Obama administration’s foreign policy, from the scrapping of missile defense in Eastern Europe, to the attempts to put pressure on Israel, to the cold shoulder presented to Britain over the Falkland Islands.

In Afghanistan, the president announced a troop surge in 2009--with a deadline set by political, not military objectives, giving a clear indication to the Taliban and to potential U.S. allies that we were not serious about victory. Today our government continues to send soldiers to die in a cause that the president only pretended to believe in when he was campaigning but has all but conceded since becoming commander-in-chief.

In Iraq, the sacrifices of thousands of Americans and untold numbers of Iraqis were devalued when the Obama administration scrapped its previous promise to maintain a troop presence in the country and failed to renew a deal with the Iraqi government that would have allowed U.S. forces to stay as a bulwark against Iranian interference and terrorist activity. In fact, the White House celebrated our complete withdrawal.

It is unclear why U.S. intelligence agencies, having evidently made strenuous efforts to recruit Dr. Afridi, seem to have made no plans for spiriting him out of the country once the bin Laden mission had been concluded. And it is unclear what efforts, if any, the State Department is undertaking on his behalf. A few weeks ago it seemed possible that Kerry had interceded with his Pakistani counterparts. That hope has yet to be fulfilled.

Beyond the obvious questions that remain about Benghazi--what did the president do to respond? why were the talking points altered?--there is already one suspicion that the Benghazi scandal has confirmed: those who make the ultimate sacrifices for the security of the United States--whether in uniform or not--are of little interest to the Obama White House when they cannot also be used by the Obama political machine.


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