Another Benghazi in the making?
State Department didn’t even list Beirut as high risk despite violence, Hezbollah presence. Insecurity persists three decades after Marine barracks bombing
Why It Matters:
Lebanon is rated at the critical level for potential violence but the U.S. embassy in Beirut has put itself at increased risk because of poor security and inadequate counterterrorism training.
The State Department is failing to adequately protect U.S. diplomats in Beirut, leaving them without necessary counterterrorism training and serving in a decrepit, aged embassy compound that fails to meet security protocols, according to an internal investigation that raises new questions about the Obama administration’s commitment to protecting Americans overseas in the aftermath of the Benghazi tragedy.
In fact, the department did not place Beirut on its latest list of high-threat diplomatic missions even though Lebanon is listed at the “critical” threat level for potential violence with its frequent rocket attacks, spillovers from the Syrian civil war and heavy presence of the terror group Hezbollah, the agency’s inspector general said in a report reviewed by theWashington Guardian.
Beirut was also the site of one of America’s deadliest terror attacks, the 1983 bombing of a Marine barracks that killed more than 240 servicemembers.
“Physical security vulnerabilities at mission facilities, which include office buildings and residences, place employees at risk,” the inspector general concluded after inspecting the Beirut embassy compound. It recommended the best solution was to build a new facility.
In the meantime, diplomats face serious threats while working at the 18-acre “cramped, aged and difficult to maintain office” located on a “steep and hilly compound” located 20 minutes from downtown Beirut, the report said. And their superiors back home in Washington seem unaware of the threat level, failing to harden weak physical security or provide needed counterterrorism training, the inspector general observed.
The risks remain high as the civil war in Syria continues to threaten the stability of Lebanon due to the influx of more than 325,000 refugees, and tensions with Hezbollah remain high with frequent rocket attacks and other skirmishes.
“The Department’s threat rating for Beirut is critical for terrorism and political violence, but the embassy is not included in the Department’s recent list of high-threat missions,” the report noted.
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