The findings of an official inquiry “examin[ing] the facts and circumstances” surrounding the September 11 attack in Benghazi were released Tuesday. The report, conducted by an independent Accountability Review Board convened by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, criticized the State Department for “Systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels” that “resulted in a special mission security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place.”
Despite clear threats in the area, the report concluded that security in Benghazi was “short-term, transitory”, and “relatively inexperienced.” It also found “a pervasive realization among personnel who served in Benghazi that the Special Mission was not a high priority for Washington when it came to security-related requests.” The State Department ignored requests from the embassy in Tripoli for more security at the Benghazi mission and failed to make the necessary safety upgrades. Moreover, it cited that dependence on the Libyan February 17 Martyrs’ Brigade militia and unarmed guards for security was “misplaced.” The board highlighted that no guards were stationed outside the compound before the attack, and that by the time of the attack the militia had stopped protecting special mission vehicles in protest of their salary.
The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi in flames after the attack on September 11, 2012. (Photo: Esam Al-Fetori/Reuters).
The board confirmed that the attack was the work of terrorists and there was no prior protest outside the consulate against an anti-Islam film produced in the U.S., as the Obama administration said even as evidence mounted that the attack was solely terrorist related. The report also made 29 recommendations, including increasing the number of Marine guards stationed at diplomatic missions, relying less on local security forces, and deploying more Diplomatic Security agents to high-risk posts. Secretary Clinton accepted all recommendations in a letter to Congress. She is expected to ask Congress to transfer $1.3 billion allocated to Iraq for improving security at U.S. missions abroad.
The tragic September 11 Benghazi attack underscored the notion that Islamic terrorists have gained room to maneuver in many countries affected by the Arab uprisings. How Washington chooses to respond to the attack, and the Accountability Review Board’s report, may determine whether or not terrorists are given the opportunity to conduct similar attacks in the future.