The Benghazi attack of Sept. 11th, 2012 arguably demonstrates an evolution in modern asymmetric warfare strategy: Insurgents organized a spontaneous flash-mob to increase their offensive capability. Libya is a war-ravaged nation, and is suffering from heavily armed militants who hide in the fog of transition. An insurgency with militia affiliations utilized an American produced anti-Islamic satirical movie, which is protected by First Amendment, to inspire an anti-American flash mob that besieged the American consulate in Benghazi. The militants used this asymmetrical tactic to overwhelm the consulate’s security forces. In this overwhelmed state the terrorist had a high-offensive capacity with a high level of intent and the consulate’s infrastructure and personnel were vulnerable to the terrorist will.
On Sunday August 26th, 2012, Ambassador Stevens traveled from Tripoli to Benghazi to give the ceremonial address at the re-opening of the American consulate, in Libya's second largest city. He ended his speech by welcoming the citizens “to visit America”. He pointed to the consulate and said “there's the door!.” On September 11th, sixteen days later, Stevens left Tripoli again for Benghazi. At 8:30 that night he was meeting with a Turkish ambassador. Approximately an hour later, after the Turkish ambassador departed the consulate, an unknown amount of angry Muslims surrounded the compound in protest against an anti-Islamic Youtube video, which few had seen. The spontaneous flash mob appeared to be another riot outside of a western diplomatic post. From nearby Cairo to Pakistan, Mali and Indonesia western embassies were experiencing violent riots, because of this video. At first glance, this echoed past global - Islamic violent reactions to the expression of free speech. The Danish publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad that led to widespread protest in 2006 and assaults on Danish embassies around the world. The Koran burning by the preacher Terry Jones in 2011 that left United Nations (UN) staff murdered in Northern Afghanistan. The desecration of the Koran by American soldiers in Afghanistan in the spring of 2012 that left scores dead, including US military personnel and UN staff. Radical Islamic groups worldwide have rioted and burned America's and its allies' infrastructure and demanded jihad justice on the slandering culprits. The jihadest groups that demand justice and inspire the violent reactions have used the created chaos to mask their operational intentions and to carry out their anti-American objectives. After the angry riot surrounded the Benghazi compound, Department of State (DoS) diplomatic security agents in a remote location using security cameras, observed heavily armed men in the mob breaching the consulate perimeter, and then heard gunfire and saw explosions. The armed men infiltrated the consulate, and assaulted it with rocket-propelled grenades and other small arms. The consulate that Stevens tasked with expanding “English-language” learning and university-level opportunities for Libyans,” fostering “relationships between” Americans and Libyans and developing “civil society … and trade” was burned to ground.
The assault was planned and coordinated by the Ansar al – Sharia militia, which controls large swaths of territory in Libya, including Benghazi, and is an aL-Qaeda affiliate, as reported by the serving CIA Director Gen. Petraeus in a Senate hearing. Aguably, the Sharia militia overcame its asymmetry of low-level offensive capability by inspiring Benghazi’s unemployed disenfranchised citizens to surround the consulate’s perimeter and riot. This overwhelmed the consulate’s high- level of defensive capability.
The militants then used the strategic advantage to assassinate Ambassador Stevens, an American intelligence officer and two American personnel security specialist and remove the State Department’s direct influence from Benghazi.
In the power struggle for Libya the DoS supports the transition government not the militias, which has created a dangerous and asymmetrical conflict. This conflict has the framework of a civil war. The multiple militias and the transition government are competing for the human terrain and ruling legitimacy. As witnessed in other nations, such as Iraq and Yemen, which are transitioning from under a dictator the conflict to fill the power-vacuum revolves around the population. This attack demonstrates that the Sharia militia group has the intent to destroy American infrastructure and to kill its citizens. They have the capacity to do so when they can use anti-Islamic satire to justify violence and create chaos to camouflage their actions. With the fusion of an operational capacity and a proven intent the tactic of insurgents inciting reactionary riots to provide cover for their operations could persist in Libya and spread globally.
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