Skip to main content
Advertising

Originally published June 12, 2013 at 9:56 AM | Page modified June 12, 2013 at 2:58 PM

  • Share:
           
  • Comments (57)
  • Print

Top U.S. military leader disputes diplomat on Benghazi

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Wednesday that four members of Army special forces in Tripoli were never told to stand down after last year's deadly assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, disputing a former top diplomat's claim that the unit might have helped Americans under siege.

Associated Press

Most Popular Comments
Hide / Show comments
"Bengazi is just one of many Republican witch hunts." Witch hunt indeed!... MORE
"No, none, zero senior Military or "Public Servant" personel have my... MORE
Just how far along will this mess and the others recently unfolding in Washington, D.C... MORE

advertising

WASHINGTON —

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Wednesday that four members of Army special forces in Tripoli were never told to stand down after last year's deadly assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, disputing a former top diplomat's claim that the unit might have helped Americans under siege.

Army Gen. Martin Dempsey said timing and the need for the unit to help with casualties from Benghazi resulted in orders for the special forces to remain in Tripoli. Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, died in two separate attacks several hours apart on the night of Sept. 11.

Gregory Hicks, a former diplomat in Tripoli at the time of the attack, told a House panel last month that the unit was told to stand down.

Dempsey said that was not the case.

"They weren't told to stand down. A `stand down' means don't do anything," he said. "They were told that the mission they were asked to perform was not in Benghazi, but was at Tripoli airport."

Republicans insist that the Obama administration is guilty of a cover-up of the events despite a scathing independent report that faulted the State Department for inadequate security at the diplomatic mission. GOP lawmakers also have questioned why the military couldn't get aircraft or forces to Benghazi in time to thwart the second attack after the first incident that killed Stevens.

Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., questioned Dempsey about Hicks' testimony at a hearing on the military budget.

Dempsey explained that when the four members of Army special forces contacted their command center in Stuttgart, Germany, they were informed that Americans in Benghazi were "on their way and that they would be better used at the Tripoli airport because one of them was a medic."

He also said that "if they had gone, they would have simply passed each other in the air."

After the first word of the attack in Benghazi, a seven-member security team, including two military personnel, flew from Tripoli to Benghazi. Upon their arrival, they learned that Stevens was missing and the situation had calmed after the first attack, according to a Pentagon timeline released last year.

Meanwhile, a second team was preparing to leave on a Libyan C-130 cargo plane from Tripoli to Benghazi when Hicks said he learned from the Libyan prime minister that Stevens was dead. The Libyan military agreed to transport additional personnel as reinforcements to Benghazi on its cargo plane, but Hicks complained the special forces were told not to make the trip.

"They were told not to board the flight, so they missed it," Hicks said. Pressed on why, he said, "I guess they just didn't have the right authority from the right level."

Dempsey and former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had told the Senate in February that the military couldn't get resources to Benghazi in time and scrambling jet fighters wasn't the right course. Dempsey told Ayotte that after he learned of Hicks' testimony last month, he checked back with officials on what orders were given.

News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon

Get ready for 2015

Get ready for 2015

The Seattle Times 12-month wall calendar features hand-picked photos of life in the Pacific Northwest. Order while supplies last!

Advertising

Partner Video

Advertising


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►