Experts are questioning the level security for the Benghazi consulate and slain U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens.
One national security expert says the Obama administration should have been prompted to increase security by the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, a call from al Qaeda’s leader to attack Americans and the growing terrorists presence in Benghazi.
The administration is sending 50 fast-reaction Marines to Benghazi, a day after four Americans, including Mr. Stevens, were killed in a mob invasion of the consulate and a safe house.
“Why weren’t those fast teams alerted for possible duty in an obvious zone of conflict on 9/11?” said retired Army Col. Ken Allard. “There is now a lot of story-telling about [al Qaeda] in Libya, apparently not a surprise to anyone who was there too.”
“Our hopes and rhetoric about the Arab awakening have considerably out-run all common sense,” Mr. Allard said. “I doubt the Libyan attack was a coincidence because our enemies understand that rhetoric matters much less than the ability to bring force to bear against any unguarded outpost.”
Press reports from the scene indicate the consulate was primarily guarded by Libyan forces, who fled as the mob lobbed bombs and grenades.
The ambassador fled to what was supposed to be a safe house, but was pointed out to the attackers by Libyan officials, according to the reports.
James Carafano, a retired Army officer and analyst at the Heritage Foundation, said a key post-attack inquiry should focus on the State Department’s risk assessment for diplomats at the consulate.
“It’s not unusual to have contract security,” Mr. Carafano said. “It’s based on what the risk assessment is. What kind of intelligence and early warning system did they have and was it adequate? Was the level of security appropriate to the assessment of level of risk that they had? Lots and lots of questions. Obviously ,what security they had was insufficient.”
“The first question we need to ask them is, What were you prepared for?” he said.
In a sarcastic comment on politicians who criticize the overseas use of private firms, Mr. Carafano said, “God forbid, we have competent security contractors who are trained and vetted. We’re way better off with third-party nationals.”
Added Joshua Foust, an analyst at the American Security Project think tank: “It seems the consulate wasn’t prepared for the extent and severity of violence that the crowd brought.”
Reuters new agency quoted one of the attackers as saying, “There was some Libyan security for the embassy outside, but when the hand-made bombs went off, they ran off and left.”
“The Libyan security forces came under heavy fire, and we were not prepared for the intensity of the attack,” Abdel-Monem Al-Hurr, spokesman for Libya’s Supreme Security Committee, told Reuters.
Al Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri, who succeeded Osama bin Laden, appeared in a 42-minute video Tuesday calling on followers to exact revenge for a U.S. drone attack in Pakistan in June that killed his top aide, Abu Yahya al-Libi.
“Benhghazi has become a collection point for lots of different militias that took part in the Libyan civil war,” said James Russell, an instructor at the Naval Postgraduate School. “These militias clearly have not been disarmed.
“It’s hard to believe that a spontaneous protest somehow included guys with RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades] and other weapons used in the attacks to breach the walls of the compound and directly attack the consulate,” he said. “It looks like an organized attack that required prior planning and support.”
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