Plenty of people wonder why the Obama administration didn’t do more to secure our consulate in Benghazi — but did they do less? Did the State Department reduce security in Benghazi and Libya over the last six months? Eli Lake at the Daily Beast reports that whistleblowers allege that State cut the protection around its missions, including in Benghazi, where a terrorist attack killed four Americans, including the US Ambassador, J. Christopher Stevens:
In the six months leading up to the assault on the United States consulate in Benghazi, the State Department reduced the number of trained Americans guarding U.S. facilities in Libya, according to a leading House Republican investigating the Sept. 11 anniversary attacks. The reduction in U.S. security personnel increased America’s reliance on local Libyan guards for the protection of its diplomats.
This is the latest charge from Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the Utah Republican leading a House investigation on the Benghazi attacks, regarding alleged security defects in Benghazi. Chaffetz said the information comes from whistleblowers who have approached the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
That’s an explosive charge. It got a tacit confirmation when Lake contacted the State Department, where the response amounts to a defense of reductions based on their estimation that the end of the war against Qaddafi had improved conditions in eastern Libya:
The State Department on Wednesday didn’t respond to requests for comment. However, a senior State Department official said an independent review panel was examining the charge. This official said it was routine to reduce the number of U.S. personnel serving in new diplomatic posts such as Benghazi over time. When the U.S. established its official presence in Benghazi in 2011, it was the middle of a war, and even routine jobs such as drivers were handled by U.S. personnel, this official said.
This demonstrates the kind of cluelessness that went all the way to the top of the administration when it came to Libya. Even when wars end in dominating occupation, such as in Germany in World War II, the danger doesn’t decrease for a long time, as the occupying force has to root out partisans and hold-outs. We certainly saw that in Iraq in 2003-8, where we went in with a lighter footprint and ended up paying a price for it.
In Libya, we didn’t have any footprint at all. We decapitated the Moammar Qaddafi regime and left no order at all behind. That left a huge power vacuum in Libya, especially in the east, where radical Islamist terror networks had already been operating just out of Qaddafi’s reach but under the radar. Under those circumstances, the danger might be worse after the war than during it — and it worked out that way for Ambassador Stevens and the other Americans in Benghazi.
If State cut security while Stevens demanded more, and while other countries (the British especially) fled Benghazi, that would be a dereliction of common sense, if not duty. It’s certainly not “smart power.”