U.S. security for diplomats in Libya was steadily drawn down in 2012 prior to the September 11 terrorist attacks, amid reports of hundreds of security incidents and despite repeated requests for better security from State Department officials in the country. Below are 8 major warning signs.
2011: Ambassador premonition: "...Things could go wrong."
In 2011, al-Qaeda was known to be in Tripoli to exploit Libya’s unsettled status and to try to obtain some of the thousands of missing MANPADS (man portable air-defense systems): shoulder-fired missiles seized by rebel forces that stormed Qaddafi government bases. U.S. Ambassador Cretz realized there were seriously dangerous tensions among anti-Qaddafi factions: Islamists and secularists. “I think there is a genuine cause to be concerned that things could go wrong,” he told reporters.
Dec. 2011: “Islamic terrorist elements…gaining operational capability.”
Operation Papa Noel, a major terrorist plot targeting foreign diplomatic missions in Libya, was thwarted in December of 2011. Pro-Qaddafi elements had planned to launch a sophisticated attack on foreign diplomatic missions and oil fields in Libya. Later, the written emergency-evacuation plan for the U.S. mission in Benghazi warned, “the majority of Loyalist insurgents tasked with carrying out this plan are still active and free in Benghazi” and “Islamic terrorist elements do exist in this area of the country, and have been reported by open sources to be gaining operational capability.”
2012: In an online posting, al-Qaeda stated its intent to attack the Red Cross, the British, and then the Americans in Benghazi. The goals were accomplished in order.
April 10, 2012: An explosive device is thrown at a convoy traveling in Benghazi carrying United Nations envoy Ian Martin.
May 22, 2012: A rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) hits the Benghazi offices of the International Red Cross and the agency decides to pull out.
June 6, 2012: An improvised explosive device detonated just outside the Benghazi consulate compound.
June 11, 2012: A rocket-propelled grenade hit a convoy carrying the British ambassador in Benghazi. The U.K. pulled out of Benghazi.
2012: There was an al-Qaeda demonstration right smack in the middle of Benghazi. “They had a parade down the streets. They raised their flag on one of the county buildings,” says one observer.
“We had no actionable intelligence . . . about this threat in Benghazi,” State Dept. Patrick Kennedy later testified to Congress. “And therefore . . . I never went to the secretary of state and told her it was time to leave Benghazi.”
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