Siege In Benghazi
One Year Later
Aug 31, 2013 – Adapted from “Under Fire: The Untold Story of the Attack in Benghazi,” by Fred Burton and Samuel M. Katz, to be published Tuesday.
After the fall of Colonel Qaddafi, in 2011, Libya had become an al-Qaeda-inspired, if not al-Qaeda-led, training base and battleground. In the northeastern city of Benghazi, it was a le Carré urban landscape where loyalties changed sides with every sunset; there were murders, betrayals, and triple-crossing profits to be made in the post-revolution. The police were only as honest as their next bribe.
Most governments were eager to abandon the danger and intrigue of Benghazi. But Libya was a target-rich environment for American political, economic and military interests, and the United States was determined to retain its diplomatic and intelligence presence in the country — including an embassy in Tripoli and a mission in Benghazi.
The United States no longer had the resources or the national will to commit massive military manpower to its outposts in remnants of what was once defined as the New World Order. The footprint of the United States in this unsettled country and its ever important but dangerous second city would have to be small and agile.
In 1984, Secretary of State George P. Shultz ordered the convening of an Advisory Panel on Overseas Security to respond to critical threats to American diplomats and diplomatic facilities encountered around the world. The panel was chaired by retired Adm. Bobby Ray Inman, a former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency. One of the primary findings of what would become known as the Inman Report was the need for an expanded security force to protect American diplomatic posts overseas, and on Aug. 27, 1986, a new State Department security force and law-enforcement agency, the Diplomatic Security Service, an arm of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS), was formed.
Another important result from the report was a focus on physical-security enhancements for embassies and consulates. These new embassies, known as Inman buildings, incorporated anti-ram walls and fences, gates, vehicle barriers, ballistic window film, and coordinated local guard forces to create fortresses that could withstand massive explosions and coordinated attempts to breach their defenses.
For over a decade following the 9/11 attacks, DS managed to contain the fundamentalist fervor intent on inflicting catastrophic damage on America’s diplomatic interests. But the wave of civilian unrest in the Arab Spring of 2011 took the region — and the United States — by surprise. Governments that had been traditional allies and that had sent police officers to anti-terrorism-assistance training were overthrown.
J. Christopher Stevens was the foreign-service officer who made sure that American diplomacy in Libya flourished. Chris, as he was called, was a true Arabist; he was known to sign his name on personal emails as “Krees” to mimic the way Arabs pronounced his name.
When the civil war was over in October 2011, Stevens was an obvious choice to become ambassador, President Barack Obama’s personal representative to the new Libya. Stevens was based in the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, which had been reopened as the country emerged from the chaos, fury, and joyous hope of the Arab Spring.