What the administration got wrong in Libya

Paul Wolfowitz:
The administration has only itself to blame for its credibility problem. It is the result of a general lack of transparency and particularly of the fact that senior officials, including the president and the secretary of state, persisted for so long in offering the American people misleading suggestions that the attacks in Benghazi were a response to an obscure anti-Islamic video. But it would be prudent to wait until the facts are clearer before challenging the president’s claim that his first priority was to do “whatever we need to do” to protect Americans in danger.
In any case, there are many other things about administration policy, behavior, and conduct that deserve to be challenged, including:
- The persistent misleading comments about the motives of the attackers.
- The failure to do more in advance to respond to the evidence – including pleas by Ambassador Stevens himself – to provide better security for US facilities in Benghazi or for the Embassy in Tripoli.
- The low priority given to AFRICOM – which had hardly any forces assigned to it – despite growing evidence since the start of the Arab uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya almost two years ago that the governments in those countries (particularly in Libya) were incapable of providing adequate security.
- The failure, after Qaddafi’s fall, to begin quickly training, equipping, and organizing capable Libyan forces so that the new Libyan government – which is evidently pro-American – could exercise better control over security. (To be fair, we were also slow previously in building up Afghan and Iraqi security forces, but why make the same mistake a third time?)
- The strategy of “leading from behind” during the Libyan uprising, which left the training and equipping of the Libyan opposition to governments that do not share our views about which groups should be armed – and even gave priority to Islamist militias over others.
- The current repetition of that same mistake in Syria, creating a situation where Islamist groups appear to be the ones which are best armed.
The administration has a lot to answer for, even if the facts confirm that it did its best, once the attacks began, to protect the personnel who had been endangered by its previous policy failures.
 Wolfowitz's sources say that the special ops units that were rallied for the crisis were not in place until the next day.  This is primarily because Africa Command has none directly assigned to it.  He also says there was no Spectre Gunship in the region and the only drones were unarmed.  That leaves F-16 or F-18s as the only force we could have sent to help the CIA team that was under fire.  I disagree that they would not have been effective in this situation.  If the CIA team had the ground laser designator as has been alleged they could have directed the planes to specific targets.

His other points on policy and behavior appear inarguable at this time.  They clearly were not prepared to defend our people, and that is because of decisions they made, and not from a lack of intelligence about the dangers posed in the area.

Update:  The White House is now denying that it refused to send help.  Wolfowitz seems to confirm that they had little in the way of assets to deal with the problem, and that in effect became a bigger problem.  But they could have dispatched a jet with laser guided bombs which would have made a difference.


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