After months of investigation, the New York Times has published its comprehensive account of the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission and CIA compound in Benghazi, which killed four people including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
The Times finds no evidence that al-Qaida or any other international terrorist group played any role in the attack:
“The attack was led, instead, by fighters who had benefited directly from NATO’s extensive air power and logistics support during the uprising against Colonel Qaddafi. And contrary to claims by some members of Congress, it was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.”
The video in question refers to the Innocence of Muslims, a 14-minute film uploaded to YouTube in the summer of 2012.
While some may see the report as a vindication of sorts for the Obama administration and former U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, who in early days cast the event as a spontaneous response to this YouTube posting, the Times says the reality is “murkier” and “wasn’t without warning signs.”
The Times goes on to profile Ahmed Abu Kattala, an “eccentric, malcontent militia leader,” who may have been a central figure in the attack. Mr. Abu Kattala and the leaders of other rebel militias were an apparent blind spot in U.S. understanding of the region, according to the Times. However, there were concerns, as expressed by Ambassador Stevens himself:
“Security vaccuum,” Ambassador Stevens wrote in his personal diary on Sept. 6 in Tripoli, in one of the few pages recovered from the Benghazi compound.
“Militias are power on the ground,” he wrote. “Dicey conditions, including car bombs, attacks on consulate,” he continued. “Islamist ‘hit list’ in Benghazi. Me targeted on a prominent website (no more off compound jogging).”