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.