David Kirkpatrick, Cairo bureau chief for our partner The New York Times, says it is not unusual for a U.S. diplomatic mission in a foreign country to rely on that country's internal security forces. However, in Libya, there basically is no effective army or police force - "there's just a loose collection of self-appointed, self-formed militias that act as the only law and order."
Kirkpatrick explains that the United States perhaps put too much faith in Libyan security because they were effective in protecting the U.S. mission after a small bombing in June. But the local forces protecting Ambassador Stevens and the U.S. mission were in no way prepared to deal with a full-scale attack of this volume.
The sense of lawlessness in Libya presents a paradox, because the government is relying on the largely autonomous and voluntary militias as the only source of law and order in the country. At the same time, these militias are the problem, as well as the solution, since they are outside of government control. You might say, "What are we doing in Libya?" Kirkpatrick says, "And yet, this is also a really unique and historic opportunity for the United States in the Arab world." The people of Libya, for the most part, are eager to befriend the United States - a friendship that would be beneficial to both sides, but that is currently in peril because of recent events.
The lack of real government in Libya has also proven difficult in light of the FBI investigation into the attacks. "In the city of Benghazi, this was a fairly public attack, by a brigade that witnesses say is easily identified and fairly well-known." Kirkpatrick says. "The obvious suspects have not been questioned."