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.”
In a later tweet that was widely circulated, Harnden said a senior Pentagon official confirmed to him “that ‘hesitation’ by President Obama” delayed the mission.
The NSC tweeted that the attack was mounted “as soon as the President was confident of success”. That’s neither a denial nor a comfort. How long did it take the White House to gain that confidence – 30 days? No wonder the intelligence was stale, and Foley no longer there.
“It took a while for us to locate the President,” White House spokesman Sylvestro Stallone conceded to FWIW, “what with him all over the country at fundraisers and golf courses, but once we did, and he found the time to listen, it couldn’t have been more than 15 days – 20, tops.”