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The Hill: Rep. King: FBI working with Libyans to investigate attack

The Hill — by Meghashyam Mali 

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Pete King (R-N.Y.) on Monday said FBI agents were working with Libyan authorities to identify those responsible for the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, but said the situation on the ground was still “confusing.”

“The FBI is over there, but it’s a hard area for investigation on the ground right now. Libya itself is confusing, but the Benghazi area is one of the most confusing of all,” said King on CNN’s “Starting Point.” “It’s an al Qaeda stronghold out there.

“We’re talking about a consulate which had virtually no security,” King added. “There were no military backups for our ambassador out there; that is almost a no-man’s-land out there.”

The New York lawmaker said that he expected the probe to be successful, but cautioned that American investigators were still collecting facts.

“I can’t tell you with certainty how accurate these investigations are. There are a lot of people being picked up by the Libyan authorities; how guilty they really are, I don’t know,” he said.

King also offered praise for Libyan authorities’ response to the attack, which claimed the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.  

“The Libyan government is trying to work with us, unlike President Morsi of Egypt,” he said.

The Benghazi embassy was attacked last week amid a protest against an obscure amateur anti-Islam video posted to YouTube, which sparked anger throughout the Muslim world.

Libya’s president and many Republican lawmakers have suggested that militants, who were armed with rocket-propelled grenades and mortars, used the protest as cover for a premeditated assault, but Obama administration officials say the attack was fueled by anger over the video.

King suggested the wave of anti-American anger stemmed in part from the president sending mixed messages to the Muslim world and quickly withdrawing troops from the region.

He said there was a climate and attitude in the region where “our allies don’t trust us, where those who are undecided are trying to hedge their bets to turn against us.”

Some Republicans, led by GOP nominee Mitt Romney have criticized Obama’s foreign policy in the wake of the Libya deaths, arguing that the incident highlighted the president’s failed leadership. Democrats, though, have accused Romney of politicizing a tragedy.

King also expressed dismay at reports that four more NATO coalition troops were killed in Afghanistan in the latest insider attack. A spate of attacks by Afghan troops on their Western counterparts has killed 51 this year. 

King said he had pressed the administration to find out why these attacks were happening. 

"This is one way they’ve been able to penetrate our defenses. We have to find a way to stop it,” he said.

But he added that he didn’t think the attacks “should force us to leave Afghanistan any earlier.”

“We can’t allow a handful of people to drive our policy in Afghanistan,” said King.