- Thomson Reuters
The militia members who came to the aid of American personnel during an attack on a US diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012 were allied with a leader whom the US helped force out of power, a new government report revealed.
The Republican-led House Select Committee on Benghazi released its long-awaited report this week, and it contained new details from the September 11, 2012, attack that left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
One revelation is that the militia members who came to the rescue at the CIA Annex in Benghazi, where US personnel who fled after the diplomatic compound came under attack, were from a group called “Libyan Military Intelligence.” The group comprised military officers loyal to Col. Moammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader the US opposed.
The House committee report, citing a member of “Team Tripoli,” said of the US rescue team that had been deployed to Benghazi:
“A key issue remained in that ‘there was no security vehicle, no gun trucks that would help us get to the airport. And we determined we could probably not make it with the vehicles we had inside the compound.’ At 6:16 a.m., a 30-vehicle motorcade arrived at the Annex to provide transport support by the Libyan Military Intelligence.
“The forces that arrived at the Annex shortly after the mortar attacks were able to transport all State Department and CIA personnel safely to the airport. The forces, known as Libyan Military Intelligence, arrived with 50 heavily-armed security vehicles. Libyan Military Intelligence was not part of the Libyan government, nor affiliated with any of the militias the CIA or State Department had developed a relationship with during the prior 18 months since the Libyan revolution took place. Instead, Libya Military Intelligence – whom the CIA did not even know existed until the night of the attacks – were comprised of former military officers under the Qadhafi regime who had gone into hiding in fear of being assassinated, and wanted to keep their presence in Benghazi as quiet as possible so as to not attract attention from the militias in control of Benghazi.”
The “friendly” militia that was supposed to be protecting US personnel in Benghazi had reportedly fled.
So many militias ran rampant in Benghazi that it was difficult to tell friend from foe and know which groups had a presence in the city.
Stephen Walt, an international-affairs professor at Harvard University who writes about foreign policy, said that collecting good intelligence in these situations is difficult.
He told Business Insider in an email:
“This episode reminds us that violent regime change creates a state of anarchy where competing groups are all out for themselves, and outsiders rarely have adequate information about the relative strength of rival factions, the nature of their leaders, or how their political alignments may shift over time.
“The point is not that the CIA or State had ‘bad intelligence’ prior to Benghazi; it is that outside governments rarely have good intelligence about what different groups will do once the old regime collapses.”
The Obama administration has often been criticized for its handling of the Benghazi attacks, but the House report contained no new evidence of wrongdoing on behalf of then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who played a central role in the response to the crisis.
Administration officials blamed the attack on spontaneous protests over an online video, but further investigation revealed that it was likely the work of Al Qaeda-linked terrorists.