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. http://news.blogs.cnn.com/...
Francis Townsend, a ranking Bush White House counterterrorism advisor was close to Stevens, according to CNN: http://security.blogs.cnn.com/...
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.
Read more: http://www.wptv.com/...
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. http://www.asiantribune.com/...
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.
Please also see related post, http://www.dailykos.com/...