This will be the first in a series of posts looking at various aspects of the attack on the U.S. Special Mission Compound (SMC) and ‘Annex’ facilities in Benghazi on September 11th and 12th, 2012. My goal for the series is to provide an overview of the events that unfolded and then dig into a few specific aspects of the attack where the official story appears to be incomplete of outright false.
To start, today’s post will detail, without comment or interpretation, two timelines:
- The timeline of the deteriorating security situation in Benghazi (and Libya in general) in the year preceding the attack.
- The timeline of requests for additional security made by Department of State employees in Benghazi in the year preceding the attack.
These timelines were built by consolidating the data in the following four official reports:
- The December 2012 Department of State Accountability Review Board (ARB) report that is the official word as far as the Department of State is concerned.
- The December 2012 Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs report with 10 specific findings many of which directly contradict the ARB report.
- The April 2013 House Republican interim report which provides detailed timelines of the attack as well as describing the many security deficiencies and generally deteriorating security situation in Libya leading up to the attack.
- The May 2013 Department of Defence official timeline of the attack.
Deteriorating Security Situation Timeline
- April 5th, 2011. Chris Stevens, then Special Envoy to the Libyan Transitional National Council (TNC) arrives in Benghazi. With him is a protective detail comprised of 10 Diplomatic Security (DS) agents. Stevens uses the Tibesti Hotel as his base of operations.
- June 1st, 2011. Car bomb outside Tibesti Hotel and additional credible threat to Stevens. Stevens moves to Annex.
- June 21st 2011. Stevens moves to Special Mission Compound (SMC). This is a walled compound on 13 acres.
- July 15th, 2011. U.S. officially recognizes the TNC as Libya’s legitimate government even though Qaddafi forces still control a large part of country.
- November 17th, 2011. Stevens departs Libya.
- March 22nd, 2012. Members of a militia searching for a suspect fire weapons near the SMC and attempt to enter.
- April 2nd, 2012. UK armoured diplomatic vehicle attacked and damaged after driving into local protest.
- April 6th, 2012. A gelatin bomb is thrown over the north wall of the SMC.
- April 10th, 2012. An IED is thrown at the UN Special Envoy to Libya’s motorcade in Benghazi.
- April 27th, 2012. Two South African nationals in Libya as part of U.S. demining team are detained at gunpoint by militia, questioned and released.
- May 22nd, 2012. Benghazi Red Cross building attacked with RPGs. Omar Abdurrahman Group claims responsibility for the attacks and issues threats against U.S. representatives in Libya.
- May 26th, 2012. Stevens arrives in Libya to replace outgoing Ambassador Cretz.
- June 6th, 2012. IED attack on the SMC blows a large hole in the compound wall. Omar Abdurrahman Group claims responsibility.
- June 8th, 2012. Parked UK diplomatic vehicle attacked with two hand grenades.
- June 11th, 2012. British Ambassador’s convey attacked in Benghazi. RPG and AK-47s used. Two UK security officers injured.
- June 12th, 2012. British mission in Benghazi closed.
- June 12th, 2012. RPG attack on Red Cross compound in Misrata (400 km west of Benghazi).
- June 18th, 2012. Tunisian consulate in Benghazi stormed by protestors.
- July 29th, 2012. IED found at Tibesti Hotel.
- July 30th, 2012. Sudanese Consul is carjacked and driver beaten.
- July 31st, 2012. Seven Red Cross workers abducted in Benghazi.
- August 5th, 2012. Red Cross in Misrata attacked with RPGs. Red Cross withdraws from Misrata and Benghazi.
- August 9th, 2012. Spanish-American NGO worker abducted in Benghazi (released same day).
- August 20th, 2012. Bomb thrown at an Egyptian diplomatic vehicle in Benghazi.
Requests for Additional Security Timeline
- March/April 2012. Only one Diplomatic Security (DS) agent assigned to Benghazi due to “visa problems”.
- March 2012. Regional Security Officer (RSO) Nordstrom requests five full time DSs for Benghazi. Request denied – Washington caps the number of DS agents in Benghazi at three.
- March 28th, 2012. Then ambassador Cretz sends formal request for additional security assets to Secretary of State Clinton.
- April 19th, 2012. State Department cable acknowledges but denies Cretz’s request. Cable goes on to outline plan to further reduce security by recalling the two Department of State Mobile Security Detachment (MSD) teams stationed in Libya. Each of these teams was comprised of six men,
- May 2012. Stevens requests the two MSD teams remain due to deteriorating security situation. Denied by State Department.
- June 7th, 2012. Stevens sends another request to State Department asking to keep the MSD teams. Request denied.
- July 2012. Embassy Tripoli requests a minimum of 3 DS agents for Benghazi.
- July 2012. Nordstrom sends request via cable (approved by Stevens) for a minimum 13 security personnel to support Tripoli. No response received.
- July 6th, 2012. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security Lamb strongly asserts that Embassy Tripoli should not make formal requests for extension of the 16 person Department of Defence site security teams (SSTs) or MSD teams.
- July 9th, 2012. Stevens responds to Lamb via cable stressing security conditions in Libya did not meet requisite State Department benchmarks. Requests additional security personnel (regardless of whether DS, SST, MSD)
- August 2012. Last of MSD teams depart. 16-person DOD SST also departs from Tripoli. Members of the SST team had occasionally augmented Benghazi security. Nordstrom was told not to request an extension to their mission and that the political cost of making such a request would be high.
- August 2nd, 2012. Stevens sends a cable asking for “protective detail bodyguard postions” to “fill the vaccum of security personnel currently at post… who will be leaving with the next month and will not be replaced”. In this cable Stevens warns that “the security condition in Libya … [is] unpredictable, volatile and violent”.
- August 8th, 2012. Stevens sends another cable to Washington warning that “a series of violent incidents has dominated the political landscape”. He further characterizes these attacks as being “targeted and discriminate”.
- August 27th, 2012. The Department of State issues a travel warning for Libya citing the threat of assassinations and car bombings.
- September 2012. Diplomates in Benghazi approach their remaining security detail requesting firearms training.
Exposed. That’s the word that comes to mind reading these timelines. At the time of the attack there was only a handful of men providing security for the Benghazi mission and Ambassador Stevens. The bulk of the Department of State and regional DOD security teams and been systematically removed from Libya in the months preceding the attack. This drawdown occurred despite persistent protests from Stevens and RSO Nordstrom about the unacceptable security situation.
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