When Stevens was sworn into his post earlier this year, he spoke passionately of the job that lay ahead of building a solid bond between the US and the new Libya that had emerged from the successful revolution against Mr. Qaddafi.
But the fall of Qaddafi’s iron-fisted regime also set free small but growing bands of Islamist extremists who were ready to take advantage of the new freedoms and the slackened security restrictions made possible by the change of government.
Already during the fighting against Qaddafi, the US was concerned about the presence in Libya and across North Africa of Al Qaeda-affiliated groups. But Tuesday’s attack appears to have been instigated by another organization, Ansar al-Sharia, whose followers adhere to the extremely conservative Salafi movement that rejects Western influence and demands a return to strict Muslim practices of past centuries.
Salafi forces appeared to be behind Tuesday’s violent protests at the US Embassy in Cairo as well as the Benghazi attack. The armed mobs were expressing their fury over an amateurish anti-Islamic video that denigrates the prophet Mohammed. The video was made last year in California by someone claiming to be an Israeli-American real estate developer.