Libyan government ‘hindered’ U.S. security by delaying firearms permits

The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flamesAccording to State Department memos as well as written and oral testimony from the former Regional Security Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Libya, the Libyan government not only delayed permitting diplomatic armed protection details, but also never allowed the locally procured guard forces hired by the mission to be armed.

Eric Nordstrom, who was transferred from his post in July of 2012 — six weeks before the attack — and who referred to the security in Benghazi as “inappropriately low” due to State Department roadblocks, testified that the post-Gaddafi government left the local security force unarmed.

“Our long term security plan in Libya was to recruit and deploy an armed, locally hired Libyan bodyguard unit,” Nordstrom told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

“However, because of Libyan political sensitivities, armed private security companies were not allowed to operate in Libya,” Nordstrom explained. “Therefore, our existing, uniformed static local guard force, both in Tripoli and Benghazi were unarmed, similar to our static local guard forces at many posts around the world. Their job was to observe, report, and alert armed host nation security, and armed DS agents on-site.”

One can appreciate an “unarmed static local guard force” in say, London, Paris or Luxembourg — but Benghazi? A city where extremist units operate in the open without fear, located in a country that had just come out of a brutal civil war?

According to a Wednesday CNSNews report:

The State Department hired Libyan nationals to carry out two types of security jobs in that country. One set acted as bodyguards for diplomatic personnel when they travelled outside the State Department’s facilities. The other acted as a “static local guard force” to man the gates and watch over U.S. diplomatic compounds.

The department had hired a contractor to provide local security personnel in Benghazi, and, according to Nordstrom, the Libyans hired by this contractor were only able to obtain temporary “firearms permits” when senior U.S. officials came to Benghazi for short-term visits.

“Although an LGF [local guard force] contractor has begun operations in Benghazi, initial discussions regarding contractor-provided armed close protection/movement support does not appear viable based on complications regarding GOL [Government of Libya] firearms permits,” wrote Nordstrom in a memo. “Currently, the LGF contractor is able to obtain only short-term (48-72 hr) firearms permits for specific VIP visits.”


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