U.S. Military: We Could Have Saved Ambassador Stevens

American Thinker

Elite  U.S. troops were completely capable of saving Ambassador Chris Stevens during the Benghazi  Consulate attacks on September 11, 2012.  Elements of the highly  specialized Combatant Commanders In-Extremis (CIF) units are always on  alert, on forward deployment, ready to respond.  Their job description is to hit the ground in 3 to 5 hours.   CIF elements are ready to engage in active combat anywhere in their  region, 3 to 5 hours after the call.

Leon  Panetta, Secretary of Defense at the time, either misled the U.S.  Congress  or was incompetent.  Panetta testified  before the Senate Armed Services Committee on February 7, 2013 that the U.S.  military could not have responded in less than 9 to 12 hours.

Obama’s  first secretary of defense, Robert Gates, told  CBS’s Face the Nation on May 12, 2013 that “[w]e don’t have a ready  force standing by” in that region.

But  we absolutely do “have a ready force standing by” to reach any trouble spot in a  few hours.  Insider  reports previously revealed that CIF elements were training in Croatia and  could have been in Benghazi in three and a half hours.

Although  rotating out of the United States, some CIF elements are always forward-deployed  within each military command region, always on stand-by.  Their training  includes expertise within each local region.  Some of each region’s unit is  always ready.  They don’t need to pack.  Being ready to go —  immediately — is their job description.  It’s the reason they  exist.

The  U.S. military has developed a range of  capabilities, from CIF teams to the Navy SEALs, to Rangers, to Green Berets.  But now many in the special  forces/special operators community feel  betrayedCommanders in Extremis units are so highly trained  and expert that even elite Green Berets wash out of the highly demanding CIF  training in large numbers.

Standard  military doctrine is to activate all such resources immediately, even if they  are ultimately not used.  Military’s plans require getting such teams in  the air and on the way, not waiting to see if they will be  needed.

So  Panetta’s and Gates’s statements to the public violate standard military  protocol.  Leon Panetta telegraphed to our enemies an image of incompetence  of U.S. forces.  Panetta’s testimony was an insult to the U.S.  military.  Elite forces go through constant, grueling training to be able  to do what Panetta and Gates say they cannot do.  One of the purposes of  “special operators” is deterrence.  Panetta and Gates undermined that  deterrence.

The  U.S. military perfected capabilities after the embassy bombings in Kenya and  Tanzania in 1998, the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000, the 2008  U.S. Embassy bombing in Yemen, and similar events.  Gates emphasized the  need for planning; Commanders in Extremis forces plan constantly for  all contingencies.

CIF  units answer directly to the general for each regional command to eliminate  delay.  Therefore, if AFRICOM — the U.S. military’s regional command for  matters involving Africa — had actually wanted to rescue Ambassador Stevens —  and the classified secrets in the Consulate — the AFRICOM general would have  communicated directly with the CIF team on forward deployment in the  region.

Panetta  testified that the U.S. military could not react because they didn’t know the  situation on the ground in Benghazi.  In fact, two unmanned drones were  overhead, sending real-time video, including infrared and night-vision cameras,  back to the national command authority.  Everyone but Panetta seems to know  how dumb Panetta’s statement was.

Panetta  testified that we should not send in aircraft without knowing what is happening  on the ground.  Au contraire.  You send in the correct aircraft to  find out what is going on.  It’s called reconnaissance.  The U.S. Air  Force has been conducting reconnaissance since World War I (then as part of the  U.S. Army).  Unless maybe our leaders don’t want to know.

In  fact, it is reported that CIF elements  assigned to AFRICOM were already mobilizing and preparing to respond in  Southern Europe.  But they were ordered to stand down.  It is believed  they were mobilizing at a U.S./NATO air base in Sigonella, Italy, near  Naples.

Sigonella  air base is only 475 miles from Benghazi.  Fighter jets from Sigonella could  have been above Benghazi in 20 minutes from takeoff at the F-16’s maximum  speed of 1,500 miles per hour.  Transports and gunships could have reached  the Consulate in 90 minutes from take-off.

F-16s  can carry fuel for a flight of 2,000 nautical miles.  So the 475-mile  flight from Sigonella would have left enough fuel for an hour of operations over  the Consulate in Benghazi plus a flight to Andravida  Air Base in Greece, only 405 miles away, to land and refuel.  Greece is  a NATO partner.  Later waves could have refueled first in Andravida, 405  miles away.

Meanwhile,  the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis and its battle group were  within range to assist the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.  Rear Admiral  Charles Gaouette was relieved of command and flown back to the States on  undisclosed allegations of inappropriate judgment, as reported in the military’s Stripes  magazine.  It is widely believed within the U.S. military that Admiral  Gaouette was mobilizing a response to come to the aid of Ambassador Stevens but  was ordered to stand down.  The allegation of “inappropriate judgment” was  that Admiral Gaoutte insisted on mounting a rescue, leading to sharp words being  exchanged.

Gregory  Hicks, Deputy Chief of Mission in Libya, immediately tasked his embassy defense  attaché with calling for help from the U.S. military.  According to Hicks’s testimony on May 8,  AFRICOM told the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli that the U.S. airbase in Aviano, Italy  could have F-16s over Benghazi in 2-3 hours but that there were no aerial  tankers in the area to refuel the F-16s.

That  excuse rings false.  Throughout Europe, U.S.-compatible standard refueling  tankers are always available.  That’s why they exist.  NATO exists so  that all NATO countries will come to the aid of any of their fellows when  attacked.

Furthermore,  why Aviano?  Sigonella was roughly half the distance.  Sigonella’s  F-16s could have reached Benghazi in 20 minutes from wheels up, conducted action  above the Consulate, and returned to Italy or Greece with fuel to spare.   Remember: a “spotter” from the Benghazi CIA annex was on the roof of the  Consulate, “laser designating” the attackers’ mortar team and reporting by  radio.

Gates  also commented that U.S. F-16s could not have simply buzzed the Benghazi  Consulate to scare away the attackers because of the risk of anti-aircraft  missiles.  Hogwash.  For months the year before the U.S. Air Force and  NATO jets had  strafed and bombed the Libyan military and decimated  its anti-aircraft weaponry.  And since when are members of the U.S.  military afraid to come to the defense of civilians because someone might hurt  them?

Even  liberal columnist Maureen Dowd commented:  “The defense secretary at the time, Leon Panetta, insisted, ‘We quickly  responded.’ But they responded that they would not respond.”  Dowd sums it  up: “All the factions wove their own mythologies at the expense of our deepest  national mythology: that if there is anything, no matter how unlikely or  difficult, that we can do to try to save the lives of Americans who have  volunteered for dangerous assignments, we must do it.”

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5 thoughts on “U.S. Military: We Could Have Saved Ambassador Stevens

  1. If they say Military Special Forces- or ANY forces- couldnt have made it, then HOW DID 2 SEALS DISOBEY ORDERS, HI-JACK A PLANE, FLY THERE IN AN HOUR, AND DIE SAVING AS MANY AS THEY COULD? It was politically bad to have to deal with this so barry let American Citizens die- just to save his campaign. That ass, along with any ‘holes associated with this- need to be prosecuted for murder, treason, and interfereing with a federal investigation.

    • I got one. How did they know they couldn’t get there in time unless they knew how long the attack was going to last?

  2. I have still not figured out why wasn’t Obama told within minutes of the start of the attack, when Hicks knew. A FLASH message should have gone out, which, I believe, would have included the President through his military attaché. If Obama was notified around 4:00 pm, why did he wait an hour, for his regular meeting with DoD? Whatever the reason, I sure hope it was a good one, because Ambassador Stevens and Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith paid for it with their lives.

    Official White House records indicate that Obama was at Walter Reed Medical Hospital talking with wounded solders, whatever that means.

    ex animo

    • I haven’t heard about him being at Walter Reed. The last I heard is that no one knew where he was or at least they aren’t saying.

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