Report: Administration weighing military strike against Libya attackers

The White House is considering a strike against militants responsible for the death of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others — if and when it can track down the perpetrators, The Associated Press reported.

The AP, citing current and former administration officials, reports that the Obama administration is weighing whether the short-term payoff of retribution against al Qaeda for the Sept. 11 attack in Libya is worth the trade-off of potentially elevating the group's stature. There is also concern about alienating governments that could help fight terror in the region, according to the AP.

The United States has put special operations forces on standby and moved drones in the skies above Libya, which would be ready to strike from Libya to Mali in response to the attack.

The report follows news last week that the Joint Special Operations Command was preparing information on suspects for potential missions to kill or capture the militants.

White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan traveled to Libya last week to meet with Libyan President Mohamed Magariaf and other government officials.

A White House spokesman did not confirm the AP report to The Hill.

The discussion of potential counterstrikes comes with Republicans criticizing the Obama administration’s response to the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. 

Republicans have blasted the administration for shifting its position, first blaming the attack on an anti-Islamic video posted online before labeling it a terrorist attack.

The Libya attack has thrown foreign policy into a more pronounced role in the presidential campaign, and forced the Obama camp to play defense in an area where the president was thought to have a clear advantage.

Vice President Biden vowed at last week’s debate that the United States would find those responsible for the attack on the U.S. Consulate.

“We will find and bring to justice the men who did this,” Biden said.

The FBI has launched an investigation into the attack. But it took agents — accompanied by a military escort — three weeks to reach the scene of the attack in Benghazi.

If the United States were to attack those responsible for the Libya attack, there could be retaliation by the militant groups. 

A spokesman in northern Mali said the September attack would be multiplied “by 10” if the United States targets them, according to the AP.