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Questions have been asked why Ambassador Chris Stevens had such a small security entourage when he visited Benghazi in Eastern Libya. The answer to that is that Stevens believed that he was safe because he routinely worked with Libyan militant groups in the area.

Ambassador Stevens was the US coordinator in Bengahzi during the uprising against Ghadaffi, coordinating the same groups of Libyan Jihadi groups that now provide much of the foreign manpower used to overthrow the Syrian regime.

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Some background: The Ambassador arrived clandestinely in Benghazi in April 2011 on a Greek freighter and took up residence in that city to coordinate the US role in the anti-Ghadafi uprising centered in that city. It was his presence there, to a major degree, that ultimately convinced President Obama to okay US involvement in the NATO airstrikes that destroyed the armored column approaching that city, a key event in the toppling of that regime.

A statement of condolence issued by the Libyan Ambassador to the United States, states Stevens "served as the principal liaison of the U.S. to the opposition in Libya and he helped coordinate the U.S. response" to events on the ground, including efforts to rebuild and integrate radical Islamists into the government.

Francis Townsend, a ranking Bush White House counterterrorism advisor was close to Stevens, according to CNN:

She counted Stevens as a friend and said she spent time with him just two weeks ago.

"I was in Tripoli on a business trip," she said. "He was not only a friend, but I think to give our viewers some context, Chris Stevens had a particular sort of affinity for Benghazi," she said. "He in D.C. in 2007 when I was in the White House...He was there with me when I traveled to speak to Moammar Ghadafi. [Stevens] knew the rebels in Benghazi. He felt very comfortable there.

Prior to his appointment as US Ambassador to Libya, Stevens had been posted in virtually every major Mideast country involved in the current civil war in Syria. From the Wiki:
Stevens joined the United States Foreign Service in 1991. His previous overseas assignments included: Deputy Principal officer and Political Section Chief in Jerusalem; political officer in Damascus; consular/political officer in Cairo; and consular/economic officer in Riyadh. In Washington, Ambassador Stevens served as Director of the Office of Multilateral Nuclear and Security Affairs; Pearson Fellow with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; special assistant to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs; Iran desk officer; and staff assistant in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.

He served twice previously in Libya, as the Deputy Chief of Mission from 2007 to 2009 and as Special Representative to the National Transitional Council from March 2011 to November 2011 during the Libyan revolution. He arrived in Tripoli in May 2012 as the U.S. Ambassador to Libya.

The assault on the US Consulate in Benghazi appears to have been well-coordinated involving experienced fighters. Initial accounts point to an al-Qaeda affiliated group that has carried out other armed attacks on western targets in the area:
(CNN) -- A pro-al Qaeda group responsible for a previous armed assault on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is the chief suspect in Tuesday's attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya, sources tracking militant Islamist groups in eastern Libya say.

They also note that the attack immediately followed a call from al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri for revenge for the death in June of a senior Libyan member of the terror group Abu Yahya al-Libi.

The group suspected to be behind the assault -- the Imprisoned Omar Abdul Rahman Brigades -- first surfaced in May, when it claimed responsibility for an attack on the International Red Cross office in Benghazi. The following month the group claimed responsibility for detonating an explosive device outside the U.S. Consulate, and later released a video of that attack.

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That group, however, is only a fragment of a far larger conglomeration of Jihadi terrorist groups that originate in, and continue to openly train and operate, in eastern Libya. Little has apparently been done to suppress these groups, which have been up until now free of the sort of armed drone attacks against similar groups in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Yemen. Ironically, Stevens catalogued a number of al-Qaeda groups in a 2008 State Dept. cable he put together at the time many of these groups were still actively carrying out their holy war against US and Shi'ia targets in Iraq. CNN reports:
Derna has for years been a recruiting ground for al Qaeda. In his 2008 cable, Stephens described the area as "a wellspring of Libyan foreign fighters" for al Qaeda in Iraq, and outlined how high youth unemployment, discrimination by the Gadhafi regime and the influence of veteran Libyan jihadists from Afghanistan all played a role in radicalizing a new generation.

In recent months, hardline Salafists have increasingly asserted themselves in eastern Libya. In June hundreds of fighters wielding AK-47s and black Islamist banners converged on Benghazi to call for the imposition of sharia law. This spring al-Zawahiri's associate Azuz was confident enough to address a large gathering in the town square of Derna, an online video of which has been seen by CNN.

Collectively, some of the Salafist and jihadist elements in eastern Libya began to become known as Ansar al Sharia, or "Partisans of Sharia." According to reports, eyewitnesses have claimed Ansar al Sharia was responsible for organizing the demonstration outside the U.S. Consulate. But Benotman told CNN Ansar al Sharia is not really a grouping at all but rather a term applied to an amorphous coalition of Islamist and Salafist groups in eastern Libya with no leadership structure.

The Libyan Province which contains Benghazi and Derna was noted in a 2007 West Point study of the origin of the majority of suicide bombers in Iraq.
A December 2007 West Point study examining the background of foreign guerrilla fighters — jihadis or mujahedin, including suicide bombers — crossing the Syrian border into Iraq during the 2006-2007 timeframe, under the auspices of the international terrorist organization Al Qaeda. This study is based on a mass of about 600 Al Qaeda personnel files which were captured by US forces in the fall of 2007. The resulting study permits us to make important findings about the mentality and belief structures of the northeastern Libyan population that is furnishing the basis for the rebellion, permitting important conclusions about the political nature of the anti-Qaddafi revolt in these areas.

The most striking finding which emerges from the West Point study is that the corridor which goes from Benghazi to Tobruk, passing through the city of Darnah (also transliterated as Derna) them represents one of the greatest concentrations of jihadi terrorists to be found anywhere in the world, and by some measures can be regarded as the leading source of suicide bombers anywhere on the planet. Darnah, with one terrorist fighter sent into Iraq to kill Americans for every 1,000 to 1,500 persons of population, emerges as suicide bomber heaven, easily surpassing the closest competitor, which was Riyad, Saudi Arabia.

According to West Point authors Joseph Felter and Brian Fishman, Saudi Arabia took first place as regards absolute numbers of jihadis sent to combat the United States and other coalition members in Iraq during the time frame in question. Libya, a country less than one fourth as populous, took second place. Saudi Arabia sent 41% of the fighters. According to Felter and Fishman, “Libya was the next most common country of origin, with 18.8% (112) of the fighters listing their nationality stating they hailed from Libya.” Other much larger countries were far behind: “Syria, Yemen, and Algeria were the next most common origin countries with 8.2% (49), 8.1% (48), and 7.2% (43), respectively. Moroccans accounted for 6.1% (36) of the records and Jordanians 1.9% (11).”

This means that almost one fifth of the foreign fighters entering Iraq across the Syrian border came from Libya, a country of just over 6 million people. A higher proportion of Libyans were interested in fighting in Iraq than any other country contributing mujahedin. Felter and Fishman point out: “Almost 19 percent of the fighters in the Sinjar Records came from Libya alone. Furthermore, Libya contributed far more fighters per capita than any other nationality in the Sinjar Records, including Saudi Arabia.”

(1) Joseph Felter and Brian Fishman, “Al Qa’ida’s Foreign Fighter in Iraq: A First Look at the Sinjar Records,” (West Point, NY: Harmony Project, Combating Terrorism Center, Department of Social Sciences, US Military Academy, December 2007). Cited as West Point Study.

(2) Op. cit.

(3) West Point Study, pp. 8-9.

Also, see, Daya Gamage, “Libyan rebellion has radical Islamist fervor: Benghazi link to Islamic militancy, U.S. Military Document Reveals,” Asian Tribune, March 17, 2011.

Indeed, eastern Libya is today a primary recruiting ground for Jihadi terrorists being drawn into the U.S. and Saudi/GCC regime change operation in Syria. The unfortunate death of the Ambassador Wednesday can be viewed as yet another instance of the sort of blowback that occurred on a larger scale 11 years earlier when US intelligence allowed al Qaeda cell members -- who had fought in Bosnia and Kosovo in operations coordinated by U.S. intelligence -- into the U.S. and failed to stop them before they carried the killings of thousands of Americans.

Our continued involvement in the bloody religious war in Syria, and our apparent failure to learn from repeated fatal mistakes in cooperating with terrorists in covert wars, virtually assures that this will not be the last such instance of blowback.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Interesting read. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annecros, UncleCharlie

    The Arab Spring is not looking so hot now.  Our flags are even being burned in London right now.

    •  This kind of thing is inevitable in order for the (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cotterperson, Tinfoil Hat

      Muslim world to come into the 21st century.
      The arab spring is about a lot more than militant groups, obviously, with the massive numbers of weapons floating around, esp. in Libya, it will be a while before these groups are neutralized.
      As far as protests, go, that comes with freedom of expression. Hopefully we can eventually prove to these folks that the US gov. and people are not their enemy. We have to avoid letting the country fall back into the hands of the neocons, though.
      The Libyan gov. will be an ally, if we can help it stablize and deal with the needs of its people, and marginalize and neutralize these militants.
      Hopefully Egypt will stabilize over time, as well.
      We will have a rough period ahead until the regime falls in Syria, and beyond.

      You can't make this stuff up.

      by David54 on Fri Sep 14, 2012 at 11:17:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  A powder keg was built, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    the film is a lit match.

  •  Yes, no doubt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Although it's reductive to say the NATO regime change operation was wrong and unwise because of this single act. I believe it was wrong and unwise for a variety of reasons but I told-you-so's at this point would be as wrong and premature as athe interventionists' declarations of victory.

    •  I'm saying that regime change has costs (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      david mizner

      that will be experienced over a long-term, and that we have not even begun to know what those will be in Syria.  I'm not saying that every U.S. action taken in Libya was wrong.  If there's some single you have to take away from this, I do not celebrate these outcomes.

      •  Libya was possible for a proxy war (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Frank Knarf

        Syria would be nowhere as easy.  In addition, Egypt and Libya are still in the formative stages.  People think revolutions can be neat and tidy but the French and Russian Revolutions proved that they are a series of events and a process that can take decades to shake themselves out

  •  Sudan. Cairo. Yemen. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    And so on.

    The reaction generally is because of years of bad US policies towards Muslim countries.

  •  Thank you for a very complete report (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and a very sobering one; it has certainly added to my knowledge base of the region.

    We will continue to see blowback as I have reiterated constantly both here and elsewhere online, that the US fails to understand asymmetrical warfare, even when we encountered it in its nascent form for us, such as the Huk revolt or various Central American revolts we dabbled in.

    For the US to understand and transform its way of thinking is impossible, I fear, as the US still struggles to understand VN and its lessons, and continues to try to couch the conflict in traditional military frameworks, such as Clausewitz, as I note a winger today quoted Clausewitz in trying to explain the US defeat in classical terms.      

  •  Is Romney capable of addressing this? (0+ / 0-)

    I don't really think so.  So far, his reactions have all been really messed up knee jerk anti-communism dating to the 1940s, the sort of analysis that got us into a lot of self-made troubles.

    Obama has a chance of getting it right and setting foreign policy on a better course, in the long run.  What it would really take is for someone like Hillary Clinton to succeed Obama in 2016 and then have 8 years.  

    Romney will surely set the clock back and probably will spend a lot of time pouring gasoline on brush fires.  

    hope that the idiots who have no constructive and creative solutions but only look to tear down will not win the day.

    by Stuart Heady on Fri Sep 14, 2012 at 12:13:01 PM PDT

    •  While Romney would be worse, regime change (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      chuckvw, annecros

      also has its advocates in this Administration.  Manifestly so.  

      I think we'd be far better off as a nation if we heeded the lessons against using our enemies to kill other enemies.  Terrorists are not our friends, and we should not use terror against our enemies, lest we become indistinguishable from them.

      Some in our Party seem to understand these principles better than others.  I can only support those who try to live by them.

  •  I don't think so (0+ / 0-)

    I listened to Maddow's theory too, and I don't buy it.

    If it was al-queda, or even an al-queda-related group, they would have taken credit for it.

    The Libyan authorities say it was Pro-Khadafy dead-enders, and this makes sense to me for a few reasons.

    First, they want to harm the relationship between the US and the new Libyan gvt, and Ambassador Stevens was the personification of that relationship.

    Second, Glen Doherty, one of the Seals killed, was tracking down the weapons held by Khadafy supporters to try to keep them out of  the hands of Salafists and to disarm the militias. The pro-Khadafy faction had those weapons.

    Third, A man named Neil C Livingstone has connections to pro-Khadafy dead enders. He was offering to facilitate safe passage for Khadafy and his family during the revolution, and he has connections to Karl Rove and other power brokers and shady operatives.

    I think the GOP helped coordinate the attack. They certainly timed the promotion of the hate film so that protests against it could be organized as a cover for the pre-planned attack on the consulate.

    Why? So Romney can pretend to be Reagan, of course.

    But we'll see what the Libyan investigation, and the FBI investigation, turns up.

    We already have all of  the right wing makers and promoters of the film. Just a few more details to fill in. Like who did the Arab translation, and who is circulating the film on youtube. Oh! and the money trail. Once we get there we can just grab Rove and throw him in a military prison.

    •  The Ghadafi people wouldn't be in Benghazi (0+ / 0-)

      They belong to other tribes in W Libya.  They couldn't operate in any numbers in Benghazi without being noticed right away.  Sorry.  I don't buy that.

      I stick by my conclusion this was blowback from ongoing regime change operations involving the US and E Libyan terrorist groups.  I haven't heard another explanation that makes better sense of the facts on the ground.

      •  I checked that (0+ / 0-)

        There is, in fact, a strong faction of Khadafy supporters in the Benghazi area.

        In my research, I tracked down press reports and eyewitness reports from people in the area.

        The Libyan government has reported that Khadafy supporters, some coming in from exile in Algeria and Mali, organized the attack for months, and they recruited Salafists for the job.

        That takes some money. Outside money. And that explains why the Libyans are saying it was an operation carried out by foreign interests.

        I think it's the GOP.

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