WASHINGTON, DC—Congressman Stephen F. Lynch, a senior member of the House Subcommittee on National Security, recently returned from a bipartisan Congressional delegation to Libya and the Sinai region of Egypt. Lynch was joined by Subcommittee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) and Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY).
The focus of the mission to Libya was to review the security issues that were exposed during the September 11, 2012 attacks on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi in which Ambassador Christopher Stevens, former Navy Seal, Glen Doherty, State Department officer Sean Smith, and former Navy Seal Tyrone Woods were killed when their compound was attacked and overrun by armed insurgents.
Over the weekend, the group met with Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Sadiq Abdulkarim Abdulrahman and U.S. Ambassador to Libya Deborah K. Jones to discuss local and regional developments. The delegation also conducted a site visit of the U.S. Embassy compound in Tripoli to examine the ongoing construction of security improvements.
"I am certainly encouraged by the extensive security measures that our State Department has taken to fortify our Embassy in Tripoli. I think it demonstrates a renewed effort to protect our diplomatic personnel and support staff," said Congressman Lynch, who added: "Of course I am ever mindful of the tragic circumstances that have brought us to take these measures and the brave Americans who perished. I can't forget that, not for a moment. So for me, it is with a grim sense of regret that these steps were not taken sooner but also it is with a commitment to and respect for the memory of those valiant American patriots that we are determined to get this right."
The delegation was unable to return to the Benghazi compound where the attacks occurred because the mission has been closed and the area is now controlled by various heavily-armed militias.
"The fact that for security reasons we have been denied permission to go out and visit the Benghazi compound and that it has been abandoned is a strong indicator of the instability in that area" said Lynch.
In Egypt, the delegation traveled to the Sinai Peninsula to assess counter-terrorism operations conducted by the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO), consisting of 13 member nations including the United States. The Sinai region, which abuts Israel and Gaza in the north, has witnessed increased militant attacks including multiple car bombs and a complex insurgent attack that killed 25 Egyptian police in August of 2013. Several of those militant groups claim affiliation with Al Qaeda.
Congressman Lynch also met with Ambassador David M. Satterfield, who will soon return to his position as Director General of the MFO, and was able to meet a group of Massachusetts soldiers from Dorchester, Newton, North Attleboro, and Randolph who are currently among several hundred soldiers serving in the Sinai.
"Our troops and the multinational forces are performing a critical peacekeeping function on the Sinai Peninsula," said Congressman Lynch. "Hopefully, our counter-terrorism efforts will eventually allow a civilian democratically-elected government to emerge to fulfill the aspirations of the Egyptian people" Lynch said.