Just two days before the 9/11 anniversary attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, two leaders of the Libyan militias responsible for keeping order in the city threatened to withdraw their men.
The brinksmanship is detailed in a cable approved by Ambassador Chris Stevens and sent on the day he died in the attack, the worst assault on a U.S. diplomatic mission since the 1979 hostage crisis in Iran. The dispatch, which was marked “sensitive” but not “classified,” contained a number of other updates on the chaotic situation on the ground in post-Gaddafi Libya.
The cable, reviewed by The Daily Beast, recounts how the two militia leaders, Wissam bin Ahmed and Muhammad al-Gharabi, accused the United States of supporting Mahmoud Jibril, the head of the Libyan transitional government, to be the country’s first elected prime minister. Jibril’s centrist National Forces Alliance won the popular vote in Libyan elections in July, but he lost the prime minister vote in the country’s Parliament on Sept. 12 by 94 to 92. Had he won, bin Ahmed and al-Gharabi warned they “would not continue to guarantee security in Benghazi, a critical function they asserted they were currently providing,” the cable reads. The man who beat Jibril, Mustafa Abushagur, lost a vote of no-confidence Sunday, throwing Libyan politics back into further uncertainty.
The threat from the militias underscores the dangers of relying on local Libyan forces for security in the run-up to the 9/11 military-style assault. The U.S. consulate in Benghazi employed a militia called the “February 17 Martyrs Brigade” for security of the four-building compound. In addition, there were five Americans serving as diplomatic security and a group of former special operations forces that acted as a quick reaction force on the day of the 9/11 attack. Members of the militias led by bin-Ahmed and al-Gharabi overlapped with the February 17 militia, the cable says.
Jason Chaffetz, the Republican lawmaker who has led the House Oversight and Government Reform committee’s investigation into the 9/11 attack, says the State Department actually decreased U.S. diplomatic security personnel in the months leading up to the attack.
The cable, titled “Benghazi Weekly Report – September 11, 2012,” notes the dangerous environment in eastern Libya. It does not, however, make a specific plea to Washington for more personnel or more security upgrades, and concludes that much of the violence in the country consists of Libyans attacking other Libyans, as opposed to specific plots directed at the West. Indeed, it says that in a meeting with Stevens, members of the Benghazi Local Council said security in their city was improving.At the same time, the cable makes no mention of the anti-Muslim YouTube....