Mitchell Reports | January 23, 2013
>>> she took responsibility, but that congress is still now asking how security requests got turned down or were ignored, including a cable from ambassador chris stevens to her on 9/11, the very day of the attack that killed him. today, clinton pointed out it's a different world.
>> benghazi did not happen in a vacuum. the arab revolutions have scrambled power dynamics and shattered security forces across the region. instability in mali has created an expanding safe haven for terrorists who look to expand their influence and plot further attacks of the kind we saw just last week in algeria .
>> joining me now, former director of the national counterterrorism center and intelligence and security analyst for nbc news, and nick burns , professor at the harvard kennedy school and former u.s. ambassador to nato , as well as other places. thank you, both, very much. nick, first to you. what did you hear today that would make anything any different in one of these outposts going forward? these are countries that cannot provide host government security . we are not budgeting the money for, certainly, not for marines and military security , and, in fact, this outpost in benghazi was basically an intelligence listening post where we didn't want to have a huge garrison.
>> i heard a lot of the republican bickering from the campaign, because benghazi fell in the middle of the campaign between president obama and governor romney, and you heard residues of that this morning. i certainly understand that the republicans in the congress have an obligation to ask tough questions, but secretary clinton was forthcoming today, she took responsibility. she said she'd implement every single one of the recommendations of the accountability review board, and i thought she made a very good suggestion, let's work, the administration and congress, more effectively together on two areas. one is more funding for embassy security . the congress has not fully funded the obama administration request for embassy security , and, two, more funding for some of the governments in the region that need to be stronger to protect us. she pointed out congress has blocked funds that would have us assist the libyan government so, responsibility of security is the host government's responsibility. we rely on them. and that militia group in benghazi failed us on september 11th and 12th, so we need to reenforce the ability of these governments to protect our embassies and consulates in 275 different locations around the world.
>> well, that raises a point, michael lighter, if we should be in 275 locations. we don't want to retreat from the world, but basically according to the review board that admiral mullen and pickering went through, they looked through the videos and say this host government local militia just turned tail and ran before the attack, or as the attack, was taking place.
>> i think what we saw in libya was a slowness on behalf of the state department to adjust to very, very different circumstances in libya . and during the ghadafi area, you could have had people there and the security forces would have protected the installation. clearly, it was a much more dangerous place than we were set up to deal with. these are the places we have to be. if we don't want to have to dedicate large military forces or special operations and going after all these people, we have have to have a diplomatic presence popping up in north africa and elsewhere. it's going to be hard. these are dangerous posts. in this case we underestimated the risk, but we're going to face these in the future.
>> the administration took the initiative to create an african core and position them seven hours away. do we need to move military into north africa , or is it too risky to have our troops?
>> i don't think it's too risky, but there's advantages to having a large u.s. military on the ground. in some cases, it's increased alienation from the u.s. i think in the case of benghazi , we actually had a pretty good american response to the crisis. now, of course, there was the attack that killed two more cia contractors, but there was a fairly effective evacuation from the embassy. there was a plan that was followed, and people were genuinely secure. these are dangerous places, and, again, i think we overestimated how much the libyan security forces would do for us. we can't do that in the future, but from my experience at the national counterterrorism center , we would see threats against u.s. consulates, embassies, and missions once, twice, several times a week somewhere around the globe, so it's very easy after the fact to say, clearly, this is where the attack would be. but before it actually happens, it's much more difficult to defend all of these facilities.
>> nick burns , more broadly, what about the fact that libya falls and ghadafi is gone, and that is generally seen by the u.s. and its allies as a good thing, but the bad guys then move on to algeria , they move on to mali , first, then algeria . you saw what happened and the deaths of americans and other contractors and employees just this past week. so, north africa is a new al qaeda haven, or al qaeda elements.
>> it is. here, andrea, i think this crisis that we experienced on september 11th and 12th in benghazi , here's where it's evolved, and secretary clinton mentioned this at the hearing this morning, we have a crisis in north africa , the vast expanse thousands of miles across the sahara desert from niger to mali , algeria and morocco, you have radical islamist elements that have taken power in northern mali . the french government has gone out to meet that threat with the support of many african countries and the united states . i think as the house meets this afternoon and questions secretary clinton , we really ought to be talking about that issue, because the administration, obviously, made some mistakes before benghazi and the wake of benghazi , and they've admitted that. but we now need to move on to protect our diplomats but also meet this radical threat in north africa . remember, it was a obscure radical terrorist group that attacked our embassies in nairobi in 1998 , hundreds of people were killed, and the same group attacked us on 9/11, al qaeda . now an offshoot of that group is at work with other radical elements in north africa . we have to go out and meet that threat. it's not ours alone to meet, the french and the african countries are quite willing to take it on, but they need our help. and i agree with michael , we cannot retreat from the world. we got to have our diplomats fully present in dangerous areas like that. our diplomats are willing to meet that threat, but they now need the support of congress to fully fund security for them.
>> nick burns , thank you so much, good to see you. and, of course, michael lighter here in washington.