Said the senior retired officer, who was consulted by senior officials after the attack: “They had no assigned forces that could respond. They also had not alerted any forces to be in preparation to respond and possible move them closer because it was 9-11 and the fact that Benghazi certainly was heating up.”
The Senate report called the military’s inability to respond a tragedy.
“[The Defense Department]and AFRICOM tried to provide effective support on September 11th, but given the nature of the attack in Benghazi and the distance of their assets from Benghazi, they were tragically unable to do so,” the report said.
It listed the assets that might have helped if moved sooner: “AFRICOM’s lack of operational assets near Benghazi hindered its capacity to evacuate U.S. personnel during the attacks. The Djibouti base was several thousand miles away. There was no Marine expeditionary unit, carrier group or a smaller group of U.S. ships closely located in the Mediterranean Sea that could have provided aerial or ground support or helped evacuate personnel from Benghazi. AFRICOM also lacked a dedicated Commander's In-extremis Force (CIF) — a specially trained force capable of performing no-notice missions.”
The Pentagon’s timeline and the Senate report showed that, at about 2 a.m. Libya time, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta ordered three units — European command’s CIF, a special commando team in the U.S. and a Marine Corps anti-terrorism team in Rota, Spain — to respond to the Benghazi assaults.
They arrived at a staging base in Sicily long after the attacks had ended. The dead and survivors were flown to Tripoli in chartered aircraft.
The attack on the mission where U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was killed began at 9:40 p.m. local time.
The two U.S. teams arrived in Sicily on Sept. 12.