New evidence suggests that the White House and State Department could have done more to ensure the safety of Americans stationed at the United States consulate in Libya.
Pleas for increased security at the now demolished consulate in Benghazi—where armed militants killed four Americans—were ignored by senior officials in Washington, according to classified cables reported by Fox News.
“RSO (Regional Security Officer) expressed concerns with the ability to defend Post in the event of a coordinated attack due to limited manpower, security measures, weapons capabilities, host nation support, and the overall size of the compound,” the cable said, according to Fox.
The new information suggests that the White House was slow to respond to concerns—even after the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on the compound began.
CIA officers poised to intervene in the attacks were twice told “to ‘stand down’ rather than help the ambassador’s team when shots were heard,” Fox Newsreported.
These reports have put the administration on defense, leading senior White House officials to claim that the U.S. military is not a “911 rescue number,”according to the Washington Post’s David Ignatius.
Moreover, U.S. operational forces were not stationed close enough to the attacks to have played a defensive role, Ignatius reported.
This led the columnist to pose a critical question: “If these rebuttals are accurate, that raises another troubling question: At a time when al-Qaeda was strengthening its presence in Libya and across North Africa, why didn’t the United States have more military hardware nearby?”
Lingering questions remain about who called off rescue forces as the White House continues to clam up when faced with queries about the attack.
“One wonders if the decision not to act was taken at Africa Command, the Pentagon, or at the White House,” Max Boot wrote in Commentary. “My bet is on the White House.”
“”It’s likely that National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, known for his attention to details, was the crisis manager in the White House, and if he didn’t inform his boss, the president, of what was going on at the time, he would have been guilty of dereliction of duty—which seems unlikely for such a conscientious bureaucrat,” Boot adds. “The decision not to act, taken in the heat of the moment and without full information available, was understandable; it might even have been the right decision in hindsight, although this seems less likely.”
To these observers, there is evidence that the White House followed a policy of leading from behind as it responded to the attacks.