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DOD Releases Detailed Timeline for Benghazi Response


11 November 2012

Written By: Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 10, 2012 – The Defense Department released a detailed timeline yesterday of the Pentagon’s response to the September attack in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.

A senior defense official, speaking on background with Pentagon reporters, emphasized the rapid consultation, planning and troop pre-deployment actions defense leaders undertook in the first hours following the attack.

“With naval, Marine, special operations and air forces either employed or en route to Libya during the attacks, we responded,” the official said. “We mourn the loss of four American heroes in Benghazi.”

The military’s initial response began within minutes of the first incident in Benghazi, the official said: the attack on the U.S. consulate began at 3:42 p.m. EDT [9:42 p.m. Benghazi time], and by 5:10 EDT an unarmed surveillance aircraft was on station over the Benghazi compound.

By 5:30 p.m., all surviving Americans had left the consulate, the official noted, adding that defense officials didn’t have that information until later.

The senior official noted that for people to understand the sequence of events in Benghazi, “it’s important to discuss the wider context of that tragic day.”

In the months before the attack, the official said, hundreds of reports surfaced of possible threats to U.S. citizens and facilities across the globe. In the Middle East and North Africa on Sept. 11, the official added, U.S. facilities in more than 16 countries were operating on a heightened force-protection level, based on specific threats.

“I would note … that there was no specific or credible threat that we knew of on the day that the attacks … occurred in Benghazi,” the official said.

The official acknowledged that since Sept. 11, many people have speculated on whether increased military intervention, including the use of manned and unmanned aircraft, might have changed the course of events in Libya that night.

“Unfortunately, no alternative or additional aircraft options were available within … [enough time] to be effective,” the official said. “Due to the incomplete intelligence picture on the ground, armed aircraft options were simply not feasible.”

The DOD timeline records that in the first hours following the initial attack, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, conferred first with the president, and shortly after with senior officials including Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, who leads U.S. Africa Command. Africom’s area of responsibility includes Libya.

During those meetings, the official said, Panetta verbally ordered two fleet antiterrorism security team, or FAST, platoons to prepare to deploy from their base in Rota, Spain. The secretary also issued verbal prepare-to-deploy orders for a U.S. European Command special operations force then training in Central Europe and a second special operations force based in the United States.

At 6:30 p.m. EDT, according to the timeline, a six-person security team, including two DOD members, left the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli for Benghazi.

The official noted the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center staff, within hours of the attack, began planning support and contingency operations with transportation and special operations experts, as well as with representatives from the four services and Africa, Europe and Central commands. By 8:39 p.m., the official said, the command center had started issuing written orders for the forces the secretary had alerted.

At 11 p.m. EDT, the official said, a second unmanned, unarmed surveillance aircraft relieved the first, and at 11:15 p.m. -- around 5 a.m. Sept. 12 in Benghazi -- the second U.S. facility there, an annex near the consulate, came under mortar and rocket-propelled grenade fire.

By 1:40 a.m. EDT Sept. 12, the first wave of Americans left Benghazi for Tripoli by airplane, with the second wave, including the bodies of the fallen, following at 4 a.m. A C-17 aircraft, under Africom direction, flew the evacuees from Tripoli to Germany later that day, the official said.

As the timeline makes clear, the official said, the evacuation took place before the FAST platoons or special operations forces arrived, although all were converging on Libya -- noting repeatedly that DOD leaders lacked a clear picture of enemy, civilian and American positions in the area.

“There are people out there who have suggested that an overhead surveillance aircraft could have perfect visibility into what was happening on the ground, and on that basis alone, you could send in a team,” the official said. “That is not necessarily how things work.”

An overhead surveillance aircraft operating at night over a city can’t always help military members separate friend and foe on the ground, the official said.

“You get a lot of good information from a surveillance aircraft, … but it doesn’t necessarily provide you a complete and instant picture of what is happening on the ground. … If you’re going to undertake military action, you’d better have solid information before you decide to take the kinds of steps that are required to effectively complete a military mission of this sort,” the official told reporters.

Over the roughly 12 hours between the start of the attacks and the time the last Americans were evacuated from Benghazi, the official said, defense leaders postured forces to meet any contingencies that might develop, as there was no way to know in the early, “murky” stages whether the situation would be resolved within hours, days or longer.

“We absolutely had our forces arrayed in a way that could potentially respond to events that might unfold,” the official said. “We are an excellent military -- the finest in the world. We’re always prepared. But we’re neither omniscient nor omnipresent.”

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Carl · 7 years ago
    This sounds like typical military BS meant to cover their butts and, primarily, the President's butt. They ignore the fact that the CIA officials on the ground were in radio and phone contact providing intel about enemy movements and positions in addition to the intel being provided by the UAV and who knows what else. Just how much intel do they have to have to get a special ops team in to help?

    They do admit that, from the time of engagement until evacuation, it was approximately 12 hours. It has also been admitted by a number of different sources that the fight lasted for at least 7 hours. Mud moves faster than that.

    Everyone keeps ignoring the fact that there is always at least one and, with current hostilities in the area, at least two carrier fleets in the Mediteranian, the location of those fleets in relation to Libya, and their resources.

    You're going to have to sell me another bridge because I am not buying this one. :P

    CYA = cover your butt. :-*
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Anni Golden · 7 years ago
    I worked in the WTC. They tried to murder me. They murdered my friends. 4 more of us - U.S. citizens - have been murdered on 9/11. I have friends, young men who joined the troops and died solely because of 9/11. WHAT IS WRONG WITH MY COUNTRY??????????????????? DO SOMETHING. WHY DO YOU LET OBAMA MAKE YOU BEND OVER HOLDING YOUR ANKLES???
  • This commment is unpublished.
    glissmeister · 7 years ago
    I have only two questions:

    1) Given the Ambassador is the personal envoy of the POTUS, did the WH inform emergency interdiction infrastructure; was AFRICOM made aware of the clandestine meeting with the envoy of the President of Turkey in the middle of an unstable Libya that fateful 9/11 night, or did they only learn about it during the resulting intercepts and pleas for help?

    2) What what were the standing orders that 9/11 and what was the procedure used and the timeline benchmarking the said CBA requests and responses involving Cross Border Authority.

    What smells the most? The shadows that imply AFRICOM, et al, was kept in the dark by either WH or DoS about this most sensitive high-level meeting between the personal envoys of the Presidents of two nations in a most unstable and vulnerable location on the most auspicious of days.

    Realize... the duty to protect and provide overarching oversight was borne by the nation who sponsored the location of the meeting, in this case, the United States provided the "secure location" and was the responsible host for the President of Turkey's personal envoy in his meeting with Obama's personal envoy.

    It would be something if AFRICOM and its overarching protective resources were kept in the dark and were not at the ready to respond on behalf of the President's personal envoy and the national interests in play in meeting the envoy of the Turkish President under such apparently strange, unstable and risk-laden circumstances.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Carl · 7 years ago
    If you want questions, here is an interesting question: Everyone knows that special forces are regularly inserted into situations similar to the Benghazi situation to gather intel. If the UAV and radio transmitions, phone calls, and e-mails from on site former Seals and CIA operatives were not providing enough intel to send in troops (yeah, right), then why didn't they insert a special ops team to gather intel with the understanding that the special ops team would be right there to assist pending the intel gathered? :eek:

    Basically, not having enough intel to insert a special ops team is BS because they should have immediately inserted such a team to either gather intel and/or assist the people on the ground. Either way, a special ops team should have been inserted early in the fight.

    Why was a special ops team not inserted as quickly as possible? That is a huge question.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Therese · 2 years ago
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