Nearly two years ago today, on September 11, 2012, four Americans were killed in a coordinated and sophisticated attack on an American diplomatic consulate and a nearby CIA outpost in Benghazi, Libya. But you’re not supposed to talk about that. At least not within the context of today’s news; that the Islamist militia, which recently sacked the country’s capital, have also taken control of portions of the U.S. embassy in Tripoli.
Amid turmoil in Libya in late July, the United States suspended operations at the Tripoli-based diplomatic facility and evacuated American personnel to nearby Tunisia. “Due to the ongoing violence resulting from clashes between Libyan militias in the immediate vicinity of the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, we have temporarily relocated all of our personnel out of Libya,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said at the time.
It looks like “temporarily” is going to be a long time.
“An Islamist-allied militia group in control of Libya’s capital now guards the U.S. Embassy and its residential compound, a commander said Sunday, as onlookers toured the abandoned homes of diplomats who fled the country more than a month ago,” the Associated Press reported on Sunday.
An Associated Press journalist saw holes left by small-arms and rocket fire dotting the residential compound, reminders of weeks of violence between rival militias over control of Tripoli that sparked the evacuation.
The breach of a deserted U.S. diplomatic post — including images of men earlier swimming in the compound’s algae-filled pools — likely will reinvigorate debate in the U.S. over its role in Libya, more than three years after supporting rebels who toppled dictator Moammar Gadhafi. It also comes just before the two-year anniversary of the slaying of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Libya.
A commander for the Dawn of Libya group, Moussa Abu-Zaqia, told the AP that his forces had been guarding the residential compound since last week, a day after it seized control of the capital and its international airport after weeks of fighting with a rival militia. Abu-Zaqia said the rival militia from Zintan was in the compound before his troops took it over.
According to a report via Vice News, the Islamist group published a YouTube video (now removed) which featured several militia members diving in to the embassy pool from a second story window after the facility had been captured.
American diplomatic officials believe that only the embassy’s residency has fallen to Islamist fighters, and the remainder of the embassy compound remains secure… For now.
Last week, the Islamist group Dawn of Libya – one of several militias vying for control of post-Gaddafi Libya – took control of the capitol after weeks of fighting. Their success resulted in Egypt and the United Arab Emirates conducting airstrikes against Islamist positions in an effort to halt the group’s advance. Last week, it was revealed that neither nation even bothered to inform Washington of their plan to engage in military operations in Libya.
In short, North Africa is falling apart. But you cannot say that, just as you cannot say that this outcome may have been foreshadowed by Ansar al-Sharif’s attack on U.S. outposts in Benghazi two years ago. That would be politically inconvenient for the White House, which engaged in a war of choice in Libya with the aim of toppling the regime in Tripoli and had no plans to secure the nation after the fighting stopped. Today, due to poor Western planning and leadership, Libya is a failed state.
It all sounds very familiar. But you’re not supposed to talk about that.