By Aaron Klein
A newly declassified Department of Defense document may shed light on why air support was never sent to the doomed Benghazi facility during the Sept. 11, 2012, attack.
The new details also may also help to explain why it took hours for an American-provided C-130 cargo plane to take off from Tripoli for the short flight to Benghazi to help evacuate survivors.
The Defense document, dated one day after the attack and released this week by Judicial Watch, says the group thought by the Pentagon to have been behind the Benghazi attack was in possession of a large cache of “SA-7 and SA-23/4 MANPADS” as well as other missiles “over two meters in length.”
The five-page document states the “attack was planned ten or more days prior on approximately 01 September 2012.”
“The intention was to attack the consulate and to kill as many Americans as possible to seek revenge for U.S. killing of Aboyahiye ((ALALIBY)) in Pakistan and in memorial of the 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center buildings.”
The document says the Defense Department possessed information the Benghazi attack was “planned and executed by The Brigades of the Captive Omar Abdul Rahman (BCOAR).”
The intelligence memo says the leader of the group, named as Abul Baset, established a headquarters and training facility in the mountains of Derna, Libya. The facility possessed weapons caches, with some being disguised by livestock feeds, the document says.
The document states the BCOAR headquarters in Derna had “SA-7 and SA-23/4 MANPADS as well as unidentified missiles over two meters in length.”
While the document was dated one day after the attack, it makes clear the Defense Department was likely monitoring the BCOAR group and its missile caches prior to the attacks.
KleinOnline was first to report that in a largely unnoticed speech to a think tank seven months before the Benghazi attack, a top State Department official described an unprecedented multi-million-dollar U.S. effort to secure anti-aircraft weapons in Libya after the fall of Moammar Gadhafi’s regime.
The official, Andrew J. Shapiro, assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, explained that U.S. experts were fully coordinating the collection efforts with the Libyan opposition.
He said the efforts were taking place in Benghazi, where a leading U.S. expert was deployed.
Anti-aircraft missiles in the hands of the Libyan rebels or other jihadists would have been a major threat to any incoming U.S. aircraft sent to aid the American targets during the Benghazi attack.
Such missiles also may have threatened the cargo plane that sat on the tarmac for hours in Tripoli before finally being dispatched in the early morning hours.
The State Department had stated the plane took off only after securing it from the Libyan transitional government.
MANPADS prompted Benghazi attacks?
Shapiro conceded that the Western-backed rebels did not want to give up the weapons, particularly Man-Portable-Air-Defense-Systems, or MANPADS, which were the focus of the weapons collection efforts.
The information may shed light on why the U.S. special mission in Benghazi was attacked Sept. 11, 2012.
Speaking to KleinOnline, Middle Eastern security officials previously stated that after Gadhafi’s downfall, murdered U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens was heavily involved in the State Department effort to collect weapons from the Libyan rebels.
The weapons were then transferred in part to the rebels fighting in Syria, the officials stated.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., in March 2013 disclosed in an interview with Fox News that Stevens was in Benghazi to keep weapons caches, particularly MANPADS, from falling into the hands of terrorists.
Fox News host Bret Baier asked Graham why Stevens was in the Benghazi mission amid the many known security threats to the facility.
Graham replied, “Because that’s where the action was regarding the rising Islamic extremists who were trying to get their hands on weapons that are flowing freely in Libya.”
The senator stated, “We were desperately trying to control the anti-aircraft missiles, the MANPADS that were all over Libya, that are now all over the Mideast.”
‘Biggest MANPADS collection effort in U.S. history’
Shapiro’s largely unnoticed remarks Feb. 2, 2012, may shed further light on the activities taking place inside the attacked Benghazi facility.
Of note is that the U.S. facility itself was protected by the February 17 Brigades, which is part of the al-Qaida-allied Ansar Al-Sharia group. That group also was in possession of significant quantities of MANPADs and was reluctant to give them up, Middle Eastern security officials told WND.
In his speech seven months before the Benghazi attack, Shapiro stated that “currently in Libya we are engaged in the most extensive effort to combat the proliferation of MANPADS in U.S. history.”
Shapiro was addressing a forum at the Stimson Center, a non-proﬁt think tank that describes itself as seeking “pragmatic solutions for some of the most important peace and security challenges around the world.”
Shapiro explained Libya had “accumulated the largest stockpile of MANPADS of any non-MANPADS producing country in the world.”
Shapiro related how then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton committed to providing $40 million to assist Libya’s efforts to secure and recover its weapons stockpiles.
Of that funding, $3 million went to unspecified nongovernmental organizations that specialize in conventional weapons destruction and stockpile security.
Inside Benghazi facility
The NGOs and a U.S. team coordinated all efforts with Libya’s Transitional National Council, or TNC, said Shapiro. The U.S. team was led by Mark Adams, a State Department expert from the MANPADS Task Force.
Tellingly, Shapiro stated Adams was deployed in August 2011, not to Tripoli where the U.S. maintained an embassy, but to Benghazi.
The only U.S. diplomatic presence in Benghazi consisted of the CIA annex and nearby facility that were the targets of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack.
Shapiro expounded on the coordination with the TNC.
“A fact often overlooked in our response to events in Libya, is that – unlike in Iraq and Afghanistan – we did not have tens of thousands of U.S. forces on the ground, nor did we control movement and access,” he said. “This meant we did not have complete freedom of movement around the country. Our efforts on the ground therefore had to be carefully coordinated and fully supported by the TNC.”
He said the rebels were reluctant to relinquish their weapons.
“Many of these weapons were taken by militias and anti-Gadhafi forces during the fighting,” he said. “Furthermore, because many militias believe MANPADS have some utility in ground combat, many militia groups remain reluctant to relinquish them.”
Shapiro said the U.S. efforts consisted of three phases.
Phase 1 entailed an effort to rapidly survey, secure and disable loose MANPADS across the country.
“To accomplish this, we immediately deployed our Quick Reaction Force, which are teams made up of civilian technical specialists,” he said.
Phase 2 efforts were to help aid the Libyan government to integrate militias and veterans of the fighting, including consolidating weapons into secure facilities and assisting in the destruction of items that the Libyans deemed in excess of their security requirements.
Such actions were likely not supported by the jihadist rebels.
The third phase would have seen the U.S. helping to ensure the Libyan met modern standards, including updating storage facilities, improving security and implementing safety management practices.
The U.S. efforts clearly failed.
In March 2013, the United Nations released a report revealing that weapons from Libya to extremists were proliferating at an “alarming rate,” fueling conflicts in Mali, Syria, Gaza and elsewhere.
With additional research by Joshua Klein.