In the wake of the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, questions continue to emerge surrounding how the U.S. government handled the situation.
A new report claiming that small teams of special operations forces had already arrived at U.S. embassies across North Africa months before the attack adds further curiosities, as do claims that the U.S. ignored calls for increased security. While the soldiers who had arrived were intended to create a network that could halt terror attacks and rescue hostages in contentious situations, the terrorists in Libya carried out their attack unfettered.
According to The Associated Press, three counter-terror officials and a former intelligence official claim — all on condition of anonymity, of course — that the White House signed off on the North African plan more than a year ago. Surprisingly, teams have been in the region for six months, these sources claim.
As of early September, though, the special operations teams still consisted only of liaison officers who were assigned to establish relationships with local governments and U.S. officials in the region. Only limited counterterrorism operations have been conducted in Africa so far.
The implication of the revelation that these teams exist is that officials’ fears were prevalent enough for them to enact a plan to combat al-Qaeda off-shoots that are operating and, in many instances, overtaking portions of the region. Considering the violence that has been increasingly prevalent in the area, it’s no surprise that the Obama administration felt it necessary to take action — but some may wonder what has taken so long for these teams to mobilize.
In Libya, where the US. consulate was not heavily guarded, this military organization clearly wasn’t ready to fend-off the threat from militants who surrounded the compound. And, unfortunately, the teams, despite having six months of placement in the area, were too new to respond to the Benghazi attack.
The presence of these teams is the latest information to emerge about the terror attack, as a plethora of debate has also unfolded in recent days surrounding how much the Obama administration knew and which portions of information were potentially withheld from the American public.
Earlier this week, a congressional committee claimed that requests for added security at the Benghazi compound were repeatedly denied. In contrast, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that security, which was increased for the September 11 anniversary, was adequate.
Clearly, the security situation in the country was less-than-stellar or the attack would have been warded off in the first place. Also, the security scenario had apparently been a concern for some parties involved as early as July 2012. Fox News has more:
Letters obtained exclusively by Fox News appear to show the State Department refused to get involved when the company tasked with protecting the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, raised security concerns, the latest indication that warning signs may have been ignored in the lead-up to last month’s terror attack.
The letters pertain to a dispute between Blue Mountain Libya, the security license holder in Libya, and its operations partner Blue Mountain UK, which trained and provided the local guards.
A source with knowledge of two State Department meetings — one in June and a second in July — told Fox News that Blue Mountain Libya felt the security provided by the UK partner was “substandard and the situation was unworkable.”
However, when the Libyans tried to bring an American contractor in to help improve security, Fox reports that a State Department contract officer declined involvement. Officer Jan Visintainer wrote a note to Blue Mountain Libya on July 10. It read, in part, “The U.S. government is not required to mediate any disagreements between the two parties of the Blue Mountain Libya partnership…contract performance is satisfactory.”
Questions will likely continue, as will investigations into these important issues. In the wake of the attack, some lawmakers have also called for the resignation of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice after she gave out the “misleading and wrong” information that the assault on the U.S. Consulate in Libya was “spontaneous” and in response to an anti-Islam film. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) is among those calling for her removal.
Numerous sources have reported that the administration knew within 24 hours that the attack was terror-related, yet it took officials quite some time to admit their belief that it was pre-planned and coordinated.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.