WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama’s choice as the next U.S. ambassador to Libya promised on Tuesday to ensure the security of staff in the country, eight months after an attack in Benghazi killed four Americans, including the last ambassador.
“The ambassador is the principal security officer at a post, and it is the ambassador who has to decide whether to allow people to travel here or there, whether to ask for additional assets, whether to insist on additional assets,” Deborah Kay Jones told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at her confirmation hearing.
“If you don’t get the answer you need, you pick up the phone and you speak to the people who are responsible for that. That’s what I intend to do, that’s what I’ve always done,” said Jones, a former ambassador to Kuwait and career diplomat.
Four Americans including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, died on September 11, 2012, in attacks on a poorly guarded temporary U.S. diplomatic mission and a more fortified CIA compound in Benghazi, Libya.
The Benghazi assault was a headache for Obama as he campaigned for re-election, and many Republicans continue to assail the Democratic president over security lapses, as well as the administration’s early conflicting accounts of what happened.
Congress has held a series of hearings on Benghazi. The House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is holding another on Wednesday.
There were no fireworks at Tuesday’s confirmation hearing for Jones and James Knight, another career diplomat nominated as ambassador to Chad, which borders Libya. Senate aides said they were unaware of any objections that might hold up the nominations.
The position of U.S. ambassador to Libya has been vacant since Stevens’ death.
Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the committee chairman, noted the importance of having ambassadors in place in a volatile region. The committee is likely to vote on the nominations next week.
Menendez also promised that he would introduce a bill on embassy security shortly.