US keeps embassies open on 9/11 anniversary despite Middle East upheaval

The embassy in Libya restricted the movement of its personnel to “essential travel only.” Ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed after he traveled from the relatively safe U.S. embassy in Tripoli to help set up a permanent mission in volatile Benghazi, 400 miles away.

And the U.S. consulate in Lahore, Pakistan, remains closed to the public since non-emergency personnel were evacuated on Aug. 9. That threat was unrelated to an al Qaeda-linked threat that prompted the closing of 19 embassies and consulates five days earlier.

Tom McDonald, a former U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe, said terrorist groups such as al Qaeda like anniversary strikes because of their “spectacular nature.” But he said closing embassies would be a “real over-reaction” in the absence of a direct threat.

“We should be terribly prudent,” said McDonald, who now heads the government policy practice at law firm BakerHostetler in Washington. “But as a matter of policy, America can't retreat.”

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