Highly sensitive U.S. military equipment stored in Libya was stolen over the summer by groups likely aligned and working with terrorist organizations, State Department sources told Fox News -- in raids that contributed to the decision to pull Special Forces personnel from the country.
The stolen equipment had been used by U.S. Special Forces stationed in the country. Lost in the raids in late July and early August were dozens of M4 rifles, night-vision technology and lasers used as aiming devices that are mounted on guns and can only be seen with night-vision equipment.
"This stuff is how we win wars. The enemy doesn't have that," one source said.
The overnight raids happened at a military training camp run by American Special Forces on the outskirts of Tripoli, in the weeks before the team was pulled from the country in August.
That U.S. team was funded by the Department of Defense Section 1208, which provides support to assist and stand up foreign counterterrorism forces in other countries. And in the case of Libya, the trainers were also tasked with hunting down the Benghazi attack suspects that killed four Americans one year ago. As Fox News previously reported, members of that team are leaving Libya.
"The loss of this military equipment is what pulled the plug on the U.S. operation," one source with direct knowledge of the events told Fox News. "No one at the State Department wanted to deal with the situation if any more went wrong, so State pulled its support for the training program and then began to try and get the team moved out of the country."
The 12-member American team was not at the training camp when either raid occurred, as they regularly stayed at a nearby villa that served as a safehouse at night.
Located just outside of Tripoli, the camp was supposed to be secured each night by Libyan forces. But on two occasions, the camp was attacked and raided by either militia members or groups affiliated with terrorist organizations.
The training and the stolen equipment was provided by American forces and thus paid for by U.S. taxpayer dollars.
The raids and stolen equipment quickly caused a rift among U.S. Special Forces, Libyan military leaders and ultimately the U.S. State Department.
"They didn't want anything to go wrong and they didn't want to take the blame. Sensitive items were taken," one source said. "Bad guys can now shoot people at night with no signature."
Meanwhile, in response to an exclusive Fox News report last month about the trainers being pulled from Libya, multiple Pentagon officials claim that the 1208 trainers whose camp was raided were not there to track the Benghazi suspects.
That wasn't their mission, according to these officials. However, special operators in the region and State Department sources insist that the Pentagon is playing with words -- and while the Libya training mission was important, it was partly a cover for U.S. operations in Libya to hunt down those responsible for killing Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others.
Fox News reported earlier this year that U.S. forces had identified suspects by the end of November 2012, and reported on their whereabouts to the U.S. Libya Chief of Mission at the time William Roebuck last January -- and that same information was passed along to military leaders, yet no action was taken.
Operators in the region sat in de facto standby for months, despite eventual charges filed by the Justice Department.