4 years, 4 months ago
The Pentagon has responded to the question of assets available to respond to the debacle at Benghazi.
Among the units ordered by Panetta on the night of the attack to Sicily, which is less than 500 miles from Libya,were two special operations teams that were moved to Sigonella.
As previously reported, one of the units came from a U.S. military base in “Central Europe.” And Little disclosed that Panetta also ordered another team from the United States to head to Sigonella. Little refused to describe what kind of unit was sent from the U.S., though it was presumably a special operations team trained for hostage rescues.
Little said both the units “did not arrive until after the entire sequence of events was complete. … They were in Sigonella many hours after the attacks.”
The Pentagon spokesman said that it can take hours for troops to be organized and transported to where they might be used. He added that at the time they were ordered to move, policy makers ”did not know when the attacks would end.” Little said that, in theory, a hostage situation in Benghazi could have lasted for days.
“We didn’t have forewarning of this tragic event in Benghazi,” Little said. “The entire U.S. government was starting from a cold start.”
[ … ]
Little reaffirmed that no other American aircraft were involved over Libya the night of the attack beyond the unarmed surveillance drone that arrived 90 minutes into the attack. As for reports that an AC-130 gunship could have been dispatched over Libya at the time of the attack, Little was clear that “there was no AC-130 within a continent’s range of Benghazi” that night.
Yet astute commenter Šťoural (Jan Špaček, Czechoslovakia) gives this summary of assets via e-mail.
1) NAS Sigonella: NAS Sigonella supports a rotational VP squadron, an HC squadron, C-2, C-9, and C-130 detachments, shore-based fleet aircraft, transient NATO aircraft and U.S. Air Force transient aircraft. Look at Google Earth Photo 17th March 2011-four P3C Orion, 37°24’27.89″N,14°54’49.81″E
CTF-67 is a subordinate command to Commander, U.S. SIXTH Fleet and maintains tactical control of deployed maritime patrol and reconnaissance squadrons. When assigned to CTF-67, P-3C Orion aircraft provide the Fleet with essential information in the European and African Areas of Responsibility. The Mediterranean maritime patrol force for these operations included ten P-3Cs, five of the AIP variant, and 14 crews from Patrol Squadrons 1, 4, 5 and 10 from Naval Air Stations Whidbey Island, Barbers Point, Jacksonville, and Brunswick, respectively.
2) P-3C AIP Orion capabilities, Orion is much better then drone Predator and Reaper.
The P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) Hunting terrorists in the peaks of the Hindu Kush? Spotting for special operations troops in Iraq? Not the stereotypical MPA missions.
Not only has the Navy’s front-line MPA been venturing far inland; it has been an indispensable surveillance platform in the global war on terrorism, a sensor and weapon platform that has impressed operational commanders with its high degree of utility and versatility.
3) CIF,probably C-company, 1st Bn, 10thSFG at least be able to make CASEVAC and NEO-non-combatant evacuation operation from Benghazi Airport.
I had also mentioned that Marine Force Recon should have been available at Sigonella. And all of this brings up an important point. I think I have made a mistake in framing the question so broadly, i.e., what assets were available to the DoD to assist at Benghazi? One important but easily overlooked exigency in the DoD rebuttal above is this idea of a hostage situation. It is mentioned at least twice in the ABC News article.
The Department of Defense rebuttal answers nothing, but adds to the list of problems. The proper way to frame this discussion is this: What assets existed at Sigonella that night (Delta Force, SEAL Teams, Marine Force Recon, MPs, cooks, administrative staff, etc.)? This report leads to more questions, such as did the National Security Counsel or Pentagon war game this scenario in such a manner that precluded the consideration of assets available at Sigonella because they weren’t specifically related to the scenario being gamed (e.g., a hostage situation)? Why weren’t forces of any kind sent to relieve the poor souls in Benghazi?
On to the recent and very important Fox News report from the ground in Benghazi.
As details emerge of serious security issues before the attack on Sept. 11, Fox News is also beginning to hear more frustration from sources both on the ground in Benghazi and in the U.S. Multiple British and American sources insist there were other capabilities in the region and are mystified why none were used. Fox News was told there were not only armed drones that monitor Libyan chemical weapon sites in the area, but also F-18’s, AC-130 aircraft and even helicopters that could have been dispatched in a timely fashion.
British intelligence sources said that unarmed drones routinely flew over Benghazi every night in flight patterns and that armed drones which fly over chemical sites, some a short flight from Benghazi, “were always said to be on call.” American sources confirmed this and questioned “why was a drone armed only with a camera dispatched?”
Another source added, “Why would they put a ragtag team together in Tripoli as first responders? This is not even what they do for a living. We had a first responder air base in Italy almost the same distance away.” Despite the team arriving from Tripoli that night, sources said sufficient American back-up never came.
British sources on the ground in Benghazi said they are extremely frustrated by the attack and are still wondering why they weren’t called for help. “We have more people on the ground here than the Americans and I just don’t know why we didn’t get the call?” one said.
Both American and British sources said, at the very least, the security situation on the ground and the lack of proper response were the result of “complete incompetence.” The covert team that came in from Tripoli was held up at the Benghazi airport for more than three hours by Libyan officials. Sources said the team notified officials in Washington that they were being delayed within 30 minutes of their arrival.
They also point out that these questions “don’t even address the military capabilities of our United Nations ally Turkey, who (has) forces available a similarly short flight away.” Fox News has learned that Turkey had a number of embassy staff in town the night of the attack and that the Turkish consul general met with Ambassador Stevens in Benghazi the night he and the three other Americans were killed.
One source asked, “Were the Turks not warned? What forces were available from our ally Turkey? Especially since they had officials there in Benghazi also and had to be concerned … and where was the U.N. in all of this?”
The Pentagon answers don’t even approach closure on this issue. Their responses have only raised more questions, and much more work needs to be done on this.
See also: John Jay