Faced with a looming bloodbath of Libyan civilians in Benghazi as forces of Col. Muammar Qaddafi closed in on the eastern opposition stronghold in the spring of 2011, Obama ordered US participation in an international intervention that checked Mr. Qaddafi’s advances in his battle with opposition forces.
By October 2011 the Qaddafi regime was finished, the mercurial leader killed by a mob of opposition fighters.
Less than a year later Benghazi would become a symbol of anti-American sentiment in a roiling Middle East. The shifting forces shaping the “Arab Spring” became all the more alarming after Stevens, who was first named a special envoy to the Libyan opposition in Benghazi in 201l, was killed in a firebombing of the US’s Benghazi mission a year later.
Stevens was the first US ambassador killed on the job since 1979.
Republicans in Congress launched investigations into the Benghazi debacle both before and after the November presidential election, accusing the White House of covering up the administration’s failure to respond to Stevens’ requests for beefed up diplomatic security in Libya.
Republicans also blasted the administration for initially attributing the attack on the mission to a mob of demonstrators expressing their fury over an anti-Islam video produced in the US.
Stevens, who had made on his own the decision to travel to a Benghazi he felt he knew well, would also come to symbolize the tensions inherent in 21st century diplomacy, where public contact is considered all the more necessary, even as it has become – at least in some regions of the world – all the more dangerous.
Jones served as ambassador to Kuwait from 2008-2011. In this new assignment, she would also be taking on the challenge of Libya’s ungoverned zones, where Islamist extremists – some known to be affiliated with Al Qaeda – have seized arms left by the Qaddafi regime and taken advantage of unprotected borders to move around and operate in neighboring countries, including Algeria and on into Mali.