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December 19, 2012

Benghazi Accountability Review Board Report Released

The review board, chaired by former Ambassador Thomas Pickering and vice-chaired by retired Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen found multiple systemic failures which lead to the events of September 11, 2012 in Benghazi.

A couple of highlights from the report (pdf) that address issues which became the topic of conversation following the attack.

Not mentioned in the ARB? ”YouTube video”

-“The Board concluded that there was no protest prior to the attacks”

...

-In the weeks and months leading up to the attacks, the response from post, Embassy Tripoli, and Washington to a deteriorating security situation was inadequate. At the same time, the SMC’s dependence on the armed but poorly skilled Libyan February 17 Martyrs’ Brigade (February 17) militia members and unarmed, locally contracted Blue Mountain Libya (BML) guards for security support was misplaced.

...

-“At the direction of the U.S. military’s Africa Command (AFRICOM), DoD moved a remotely piloted, unarmed surveillance aircraft which arrived over the SMC shortly before the DS team departed. A second remotely piloted, unarmed surveillance aircraft relieved the first, and monitored the eventual evacuation of personnel from the Annex to Benghazi airport later on the morning of September 12.”
...

-“The interagency response was timely and appropriate, but there simply was not enough time given the speed of the attacks for armed U.S. military assets to have made a difference.”

On the larger issues of how state handles security at temporary

“Systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department (the “Department”) resulted in a Special Mission security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place.

Security in Benghazi was not recognized and implemented as a “shared responsibility” by the bureaus in Washington charged with supporting the post, resulting in stove-piped discussions and decisions on policy and security. That said, Embassy Tripoli did not demonstrate strong and sustained advocacy with Washington for increased security for Special Mission Benghazi.

-The short-term, transitory nature of Special Mission Benghazi’s staffing, with talented and committed, but relatively inexperienced, American personnel often on temporary assignments of 40 days or less, resulted in diminished institutional knowledge, continuity, and mission capacity.”

Amazingly, the so-called “Accountability Review Board” either chose not to or was not empowered to actually hold anyone ACCOUNTABLE.

“The Board found that certain senior State Department officials within two bureaus in critical positions of authority and responsibility in Washington demonstrated a lack of proactive leadership and management ability appropriate for the State Department’s senior ranks in their responses to security concerns posed by Special Mission Benghazi, given the deteriorating threat environment and the lack of reliable host government protection. However, the Board did not find that any individual U.S. Government employee engaged in misconduct or willfully ignored his or her responsibilities, and, therefore did not find reasonable cause to believe that an individual breached his or her duty so as to be the subject of a recommendation for disciplinary action.”

4 Americans, including an Ambassador, are dead and there will no “disciplinary action” recommended? So it was a total clusterfuck and no one in authority stepped up to deal with it because, that’s how business was done. Shrug.


The attack started at approximately 9:45pm local time. The board found that after the fight and rescue efforts, the survivors reached “the annex” (the CIA location) by 23:30. While the fight continued at the annex after that time, Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith were already dead. It’s nice to think of the US military as all-powerful but they aren’t cops on the beat who can be anywhere in the world in under an hour.

The reality is almost everything in this unclassified ARB report was covered two months here at the HQ by Robert Caruso. If you missed it at the time, I highly recommend you listen to my talk with him. You’ll come away with a greater appreciation for the challenges facing the State department, intelligence community and the US military as diplomats work from isolated posts, in semi-permissive environments where the usual support of a strong host nation is absent.



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posted by DrewM. at 10:07 AM

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