The Defense Department’s Very Carefully Worded Benghazi Statement

I’m not big on most of the theories I’ve seen on how the US military could have intervened in Benghazi but testimony by Deputy Chief of Mission Gregory Hicks that a 4 man SOF was told to stand-down and not go to Benghazi is an issue worth exploring.

Here’s what the Defense Department said about Hicks’ charge.

The Pentagon, which has not previously acknowledged the debate over where the four-man team would be most valuable, defended on Wednesday the decision to keep them in the capital.

“We continue to believe there was nothing this team could have done to assist during the second attack in Benghazi,” Pentagon spokesman George Little told reporters. Little noted there were also concerns about the security of American officials in the Libyan capital.

According to Hicks the team was set to leave on the second Libyan government C-130 to bolster the defense forces at the airport (the folks in Benghazi had been in combat on and off for hours by that point) and to render medical aid (one of the SOF operators was the team’s medic).

Now, let’s not pretend this was a massive reaction force. It was four guys, one of whom had a broken foot. But they were fresh guns for a potential new fight and would have been able to take some of the pressure off the people who had been running ragged all night.

But that’s not what Little claims. He says they couldn’t have helped in the second attack at the CIA annex in Benghazi where two men were killed in a mortar attack. No one is claiming that they could have helped since we know that second C-130 landed after the mortar attack at the annex.

Why weren’t they allowed to go and help with security for the evacuation or in case a third attack occurred?

The idea they were told to say behind in Tripoli to defend against possible attacks there may turn out to make sense. Yes, the officer in charge of that detachment was upset about not being able to go to the sound of the guns but sometimes other people have a bigger picture and can make a different call.

Today’s hearing is raising as many questions at it is answering. We need to know who gave that order and why. That will certainly be something for the House Armed Services Committee to look into with then AfricaCom commander Ham and the head of the detail, Lt Col Gibson.

While we wait for these and other answers, let’s not overstate what those 4 soldiers could have done.


About Drew

I blog about politics and hockey because I sort of understand those things. I'd blog about women but I'll never understand them.

Posted on May 8, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. DICK Cheney raised an interesting point. He said they were always on alert on September 11’s. Planning and executing missions takes time. That said, there was always a Ready 5 aircraft for crash rescue during flight ops on a carrier and a Ready 30 for response. Remembering back to the assault on the USS Liberty in 1967 we launched a Ready a/c to defend the Liberty that was recalled. Crazy thought; maybe, just maybe command, control , and communications have advanced in 50 years enabling the military to update the pilot enroute….

  2. here’s a more learned analysis from a former SF type.
    Gates: Some Benghazi critics have “cartoonish” view of military capability

    Oh R-E-A-L-L-Y-?-?-? How very I-N-T-E-R-E-S-T-I-N-G for you to say that. Well I don’t have a “cartoonish” view of the military – having spent a quarter of a century wearing the war suit in Special Forces and maintaining a close professional association with Special Operations units to this day . . .

    . . . let’s go through this by the numbers:

    “We don’t have a ready force standing by in the Middle East, and so getting somebody there in a timely way would have been very difficult, if not impossible.”

    Not exactly true – we had the Commander’s In Extemis Force (CIF) eight hundred miles away on a training mission in Croatia; less than six hours out by C-130. Perhaps not close enough to respond to the initial assault on the Consulate but they certainly could have made a difference during the follow-on fight at the CIA Annex compound. Closer to the fight, at least four Special Forces operators in Tripoli who were ordered – by somebody – to stand down.

    I know about the CIF because that is my old outfit – everywhere we went we were required to bring our go-to-war pallets with full basic load of ammunition. In the event of a terrorist attack on one of the diplomatic missions in our theater, our job was to march to the sound of the guns. To turn off the standing orders requires a direct order from the National Command Authority – i.e the President, the Vice-President, the Secretary of Defense or the Assistant Secretary of Defense. One of those four gave the order to stand down, in other words.

    Suggestions that we could have flown a fighter jet over the attackers to “scare them with the noise or something,” Gates said, ignored the “number of surface to air missiles that have disappeared from [former Libyan leader] Qaddafi’s arsenals.”

    I’m going to throw out the 15-yard Bullshit Flag here; we know that over 6 hours elapsed from the beginning of the attack to when the CIA operators were killed by mortar fire – from a heavy mortar emplacement they had laser target designators on, and had requested air support hours earlier in neutralizing. They had also given higher HQ 8-digit coordinates on the mortars, as close as it gets in combat targeting. Former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods (who died during the second phase of the attack, on the CIA Annex) were “lazing” enemy mortar position. They weren’t doing that for the good of their health – they were doing it because they had reason to believe there were air assets overhead; and they were on the phone speaking to somebody, directing them to laze those targets.

    Furthermore, Libya does not have Syria’s Anti-Aircraft-Artillery (AAA) defense-in-depth. Sure, there are shoulder-fired man-portable anti-aircraft defense systems (MANPADS) available – but these are inneffective against a couple of fast-movers flying less than 200′ off the deck with their afterburners on. By the time the zoomies scream on by causing a couple of sonic booms over the bad guys, Hajii would be saying, “Holy Hookah Pipes, what was THAT???” I have personally seen this tactic defuse an attack on a political target in the Philippines.

    “To send some small number of special forces or other troops in without knowing what the environment is, without knowing what the threat is, without having any intelligence in terms of what is actually going on on the ground, would have been very dangerous. It’s sort of a cartoonish impression of military capabilities and military forces,” he said. “The one thing that our forces are noted for is planning and preparation before we send people in harm’s way, and there just wasn’t time to do that.”

    Again, bullshit. We had actionable intelligence live from the battlefield. Our guys on the ground – to include former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods – were tooling around town between the Consulate and the Annex, and were reporting what they saw. On top of that, we had at least one drone, and various reports mention the presence of an AC-130 gunship – which would explain what Doherty and Woods were doing with the lasers.

    The Ultimate Rebuttal:

    Gates can say what he wants – one aspect of this entire disgraceful affair that nobody is addressing is the relief-for-cause of General Ham, commander of US Africa Command at Kelly Kaserne in Stuttgart, Germany, the evening of the attack, 11-12 September 2012:

    Upon notification the attack in Benghazi was taking place, AFRICOM Commander General Ham immediately notified the CIF unit and communicated to the Pentagon that his forces were ready to deploy.

    General Ham then received the order to stand down. His alleged response was screw it, he was going to help anyhow. Within 30 seconds to a minute after making the move to respond, his second-in-command apprehended General Ham and told him that he was now relieved of his command.

    On October 18 2012, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced: ”President Barack Obama will nominate Army Gen. David Rodriguez to succeed Gen. Carter Ham as commander of U.S. Africa Command and Marine Lt. Gen. John Paxton to succeed Gen. Joseph Dunford as assistant commandant of the Marine Corps.”

    It is very intriguing that Ham is immediately reassigned less than eighteen months into a three year tour. Maybe Ham attempted to send a reaction force against orders, or maybe he simply gave his chain-of-command a piece of his mind about hanging Americans to dry. At the very least the CIF and whatever other forces were available could have made those who killed our people pay while they were still on the scene.


    What I’m seeing here is somebody trotted out former CIA Director Robert Gates, to assist with the mitigation and spin doctoring of BenghaziGate. Team Obama either has something they’re holding over his head, or – get this – they’re promising him a nice juicy plum. Say, an ambassadorship in London or Rome or Paris, or maybe even a spot on the ticket with the HildeBeest in 2016. Think about it; nothing could give Hillary more legitimacy in the area of foreign affairs and national security than to have a Republican former Secretary of Defense, former Director of Central Intelligence as her running partner?

    The kind of people who rise to the top of organizations such as the Department of Defense and the CIA are raging egomaniacs – if not during their rise to the top, then certainly after breathing the rarified air at the top. Dangle a carrot like that in front of them, and a guy like Gates will sell his mother. Selling out his country is small potatoes, in comparison.

    Wnat I’m waiting for is to hear what Petraeus has to say about all this – he testified on Benghazi and spouted the party line, and for his troubles the Obamatrons threw him under the bus. It will be very interesting to hear what he has to say if they bring him out, the second time around.


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