Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Al-Qaida in Benghazi attack

Panetta, Dempsey to testify on Benghazi attack

US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta and General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would testify before a key Congressional committee later this week on the terrorist attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi.

In the attack, the US Ambassador to Libya and three other American nationals were killed.

In a statement, Senate Armed Services Committee said Panetta and Dempsey would testify on Thursday on the Department of Defence’s response to the attack on US facilities in Benghazi, and the findings of its internal review following the attack.
It is for quite some time that the Senate leadership had been asking for hearing on the Benghazi incident directly from Panetta and Dempsey.

A day earlier in an interview to a US news channel, Panetta and Dempsey had defended the Pentagon’s actions during the Benghazi attack.

“This is not 9/11. You cannot just simply call and expect within two minutes to have a team in place. It takes time.

That’s the nature of it. Our people are there. They are in position to move, but we’ve got to have good intelligence that gives us a heads up that something is going to happen,” the Defense Secretary told the CNN in an interview.

Panetta said the intelligence did not provide any warning that this was going to happen. “We deployed. We knew there were problems there. We moved forces into place where we could deploy them quickly if we had to. They were ready to go. But very frankly by the time we got the information as to what, in fact, was taking place there, just distance alone made it very difficult to respond quickly. That’s just the nature of dealing with the Middle East,” he said in response to a question.

General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, refuted reports that the attack on the Benghazi Consulate was seven-hour battle. “It was two 20-minute battles separated by about six hours. The idea that this was one continuous event is just incorrect,” he said.

“The nearest armed aircraft, happened to be in Djibouti.

The distance from Djibouti to Benghazi is the distance from Washington DC, to Los Angeles. There is some significant physics involved. And the time available, given the intelligence available, I have great confidence in reporting to the American people that we were appropriately responsive given what we knew at the time,” Dempsey argued.
Panetta said the US has learnt lessons from the Benghazi attack. “The answer is you have to develop host country capability there. Every embassy we have, the host country has to provide good security,” he said.

“You have to be able to rely in part on their capability to provide security. You’ve also got to be able to harden the facility so that, you know, it is well-protected. Thirdly, if none of that works, then obviously you’ve got to have a response team that’s ready to respond. You’ve got to have intelligence that tells you this is trouble. There’s a risk here,” he said.

Dempsey said as soon as they knew something happened, Panetta gave vocal instructions to begin moving forces to a higher alert posture and to make them with aircraft necessary to move them, and then, including the transit time to give him an estimate of how quickly they could have something there.

“We did exactly what you just said. But you can’t be at every place. And I might remind you it was 9/11 elsewhere in the world, not just in Libya.


Officials: Al-Qaida in Benghazi attack

Mixture of Islamist groups, motivations seen behind deadly assault on Libya compounds
By Nancy A. Youssef MCT News Service 12:01 A.M.FEB. 5, 2013Updated7:41 P.M.FEB. 4, 2013


The attackers who killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans last September in Benghazi, Libya, represented a variety of Islamist groups and were motivated by a myriad factors, the top Libyan official investigating the case has told McClatchy Newspapers.

They almost certainly included members of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the North Africa affiliate of al-Qaeda, which the French now are confronting in northern Mali, Army Gen. Carter Ham, the head of the U.S. military’s Africa Command, said in a separate interview.

The two descriptions of what took place underscore the complexity of the threat posed by restive Islamist groups that suddenly found space to grow and expand after the collapse of the government of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, whom Libyan rebels killed in October 2011 after a months-long NATO-led bombing campaign.

“I believe there are individuals who participated in the attacks in Benghazi who had at least some affiliation with AQIM,” Ham told McClatchy. “I don’t interpret from that that this was AQIM-directed or even an AQIM-inspired or -supported effort. But the connection is there. And I think that what I am wrestling with is: What is the connection with all these various individuals or groups?”

Col. Abdel Salem Ashour, who heads the Libyan Interior Ministry’s criminal investigations department, said he now thought the attack was hastily planned by smaller groups whose membership comprised different nationalities. He said the attack wasn’t well organized but that with the Libyan government essentially without forces in eastern Libya, it didn’t need to be.

“Islamist groups have their own agendas, and they have the ability to gather and mobilize. They exploit the lack of security,” he said.
Ashour said the case had been turned over to a judge in Tripoli, suggesting that suspects have been identified. But he emphasized that nearly five months after the attack, no arrests have been made.

The assault has spurred several U.S. congressional investigations into why the two American compounds in Benghazi, one of which generally is referred to as the consulate and the other of which housed the CIA station in eastern Libya, were so poorly defended. Stevens and State Department computer expert Sean Smith died when the consulate was overrun and set on fire. Two former Navy SEALs who were working as security contractors for the CIA, Glen Doherty of Encinitas and Tyrone Woods of Imperial Beach, died hours later when the attackers fired mortar rounds at the CIA compound.

Determining what motivated the Benghazi attack is one issue that Ham and Libyan investigators are still struggling with.

Ham and Ashour said they thought that anger over the killing of a top al-Qaeda official, Abu Yahya al-Libi, by a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan was one factor. Al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri had confirmed al-Libi’s death in a video aired the day before the Benghazi attack.

“There are some indications that was part of the motivation for some of those who participated in the attack. Whether it was the compelling reason or not, I think, is hard to say,” Ham said.

At the same time, protests had broken out in Egypt hours before the assault over an inflammatory video produced by Egyptian exiles living in the United States that insulted the Prophet Muhammad. Ashour said that was the motivation for smaller groups that planned the attack on the consulate.

“Each group used (the assault) for its own interests,” Ashour said. “One used it for the film and another used it for the leader that was killed. And there were other thieves who used it for the sake of stealing.”

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