AP: Benghazi consulate attack was led by 50 masked men using "military tactics"; Update: Libyan officials "absolutely convinced" attack was planned

I don’t want to inch too far out on the limb here, but I’m starting to suspect that this was preplanned.

U.S. intelligence indicates that 50 or more people, many of them masked, were responsible for the Sept. 11 assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi. Gun trucks provided added firepower. The attackers set up a perimeter, controlling access in and out of the compound. A first wave of attacks sent the Americans fleeing to a fallback building, where a second group of extremists beset them with precise mortar fire.

Intelligence reports were still coming in, but officials told The Associated Press that what may have initially seemed like a protest over an anti-Islam movie that had spun out of control now showed the hallmarks of a more sophisticated operation.

In a country coming off a civil war, a level of battlefield savvy does not prove the attack on the compound was planned well in advance. How much planning went into the operation and whether it could have been detected or prevented remain unanswered questions, officials said.

I’ve made this point before, but the debate we’re mired in over how “preplanned” the operation was is so stupid that it’s worth making again. Isn’t it more damning of the administration if the attack was planned in a few hours rather than a few weeks? If your consulate is smack dab in the middle of an area that’s teeming with jihadist groups that are heavily armed, battle-seasoned, and able to operate with impunity thanks to a barely functioning central government, then it’s incumbent upon the State Department to provide strong security at the consulate. You can’t rely on U.S. intelligence to detect and disrupt a plot in advance, since there are too many militias to keep close tabs on and there won’t necessarily be much “advance” time. You need armed troops prepared for the worst already in place. What did we get instead? Ask the Wall Street Journal:

U.S. officials issued alerts and ordered security precautions in neighboring Egypt ahead of protests and violence on Sept. 11, but largely overlooked the possibility of trouble at other diplomatic postings in the region.

The State Department chose to maintain only limited security in Benghazi, Libya, despite months of sporadic attacks there on U.S. and other Western missions. And while the U.S. said it would ask Libya to boost security there, it did so just once, for a one-week period in June, according to Libyan officials.

The U.S. didn’t seriously consider sending in the military during the attack. It summoned rapid-response teams of Marines only after the U.S. ambassador was dead. State Department officials said they doubted the Pentagon could have mobilized a rescue force quickly enough to make a difference during the fighting. The Pentagon waited for guidance from State, which is responsible for diplomatic security, a senior military official said…

The apparent lapses extended to firefighting equipment. Rescue attempts at the main building were thwarted in part by the absence of smoke-protection masks and fire extinguishers, said Libyan guards.

To repeat: Insofar as some sort of sophisticated attack on the consulate was foreseeable from the day the building opened, it was “preplanned” — and yet, presumably to keep a “light footprint” in the area and not antagonize local jihadists with an American “occupation” presence, Chris Stevens was left essentially defenseless. The Libyans who own the villa rented by U.S. diplomats told Reuters they were shocked to see how few precautions were taken, basically nothing beyond the kind of security cameras and barbed wire that middle-class Benghazians already use. There weren’t even concentric rings of security to defend the building if/when the outer wall was first breached.

Here’s House Armed Services Committee chair Buck McKeon tenderly noting, “You hate to think that the president would purposely mislead the American people, but it sure looks like it to me.” Exit question: Has anyone come up with a solid explanation yet for how this militia knew Stevens was at the consulate that night? He wasn’t based in Benghazi, remember; the embassy is in Tripoli. He was there temporarily, and yet somehow the local jihadis caught him at just the right moment. Amazing how they managed to put together a “spontaneous” attack on a night when Stevens just happened to be in town, huh?

Update: Go figure.

About 100 attackers carried out a “coordinated assault” last week on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, intelligence sources tell Fox News, further discrediting earlier Obama administration claims that the deadly attack was a “spontaneous” outburst in response to an anti-Islam film.

Fox News’ sources say the attack came in two waves and involved rocket-propelled grenades, as well as mortar fire, and both the consulate and safe house were attacked seemingly with inside knowledge.

Libyan officials are now “absolutely convinced” the attack was preplanned, sources say, adding to recent indications that Al Qaeda was involved, specifically a former Guantanamo detainee named Sufyan Ben Qumu.

It’s as self-serving for Libyan officials to believe it was preplanned as it is for U.S. intel to believe it was spontaneous, as it slightly mitigates their failure to defend the consulate. But the facts sure are on their side. A hundred attackers, in two separate waves? Sounds like the only thing that was “spontaneous” about this was the tip they got from inside the consulate that Stevens was in the building.

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David Strom 6:41 PM on January 26, 2023