Washington - The US Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, requested — and received —
a four-month extension of a 16-member security team, a February request
that showed just how dangerous the situation in the country had become
for American diplomats.
The commander of the security team,
Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Wood, told ABC News that slain US Ambassador
Chris Stevens had wanted the team to stay even longer — past the end of
its extended deployment in August.
A senior State Department
official confirmed to The Associated Press that the initial extension
request was granted, but said that despite Wood's comments, a request
for an extension past August was never made.
Stevens and three
other Americans were killed in an attack on US diplomatic facilities in
Benghazi, Libya, on 11 September. The House Oversight and Government
Reform Committee is preparing for a hearing Wednesday on whether the
State Department refused repeated requests for more security in
The embassy request for an extension of the security
team through August was in a February memo to department officials,
obtained by the AP from a government official who insisted on anonymity
because he was not authorised to release the document.
Department will send two officials to testify at the hearing, and
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has named an agency review
board to determine whether security was lax. The FBI also is
investigating the attacks, which Obama administration officials
initially described as a spontaneous protest but now acknowledge was an
act of terrorism.
The State Department official said that after
the team remained through August, it was replaced by an equal number of
personnel with the same skill sets. Had the security support team still
been in Tripoli at the time of the attack in Benghazi, it wouldn't have
made any difference, the official said.
had nothing to do with Benghazi, zero," the official said. "They were
based in Tripoli and they were not a quick reaction force jetting around
However, State Department emails show that the
16-member security team did play a role in Benghazi, even though its
main mission was to provide security at the embassy in Tripoli. A State
Department security official who was temporarily assigned to Benghazi
thanked Wood for members of the team escorting US officials to a
dangerous area outside of Benghazi and also for providing training to
members of a Libyan quick reaction force, teaching a tactical medicine
class and reviewing defensive tactics.
Another email from a
security official in Benghazi said the staff there had spoken to Wood
when he visited about equipment needed for the Benghazi mission.
Department spokesman Mark Toner said late Monday that the Security
Support Team was "enlisted to support the reopening of Embassy Tripoli
to help ensure we had the security necessary as our diplomatic presence
grew. They were based in Tripoli and operated almost exclusively there.
When their rotation in Libya ended, Diplomatic Security Special Agents
were deployed and maintained a constant level of security capability. So
the departure of the SST had no impact whatsoever on the total number
of fully trained American security personnel in Libya overall, or in
While the February memo referred to
conditions in Tripoli, the description also generally described the
security situation in Libya.
"Overall security conditions
continue to be unpredictable, with large numbers of armed groups and
individuals not under control of the central government, and frequent
clashes in Tripoli and other major population centres," the memo said.
memo added, "Until these militias are off the streets and a strong
national police force is established, we will not have a reliable host
government partner that is capable of responding to the embassy's
"It is likely that we will need to maintain a heightened security posture for the foreseeable future."
February memo said the 16-member team was an integral part of the
mobile and fixed site security protections. The team's duties beyond
securing diplomatic facilities included training local guards, being a
quick response force, and providing medical support, communications, and
disposal of explosives.
The force also supplied security for
visits from government officials, including deployment of 13 of the 16
members for a congressional delegation led by Republican Senator John