- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 23, 2013


We keep hearing from the president and some congressmen that Benghazi, Libya, is a sideshow. If it were about who changed talking points or security, I would agree.

Every American posted overseas has a reasonable expectation of being evacuated if things turn south. Every mission has an evacuation plan in place that was jointly developed by the Department of Defense and the Department of State and filed with the appropriate military command. That is why there is a process called Noncombatant Evacuation Operation. They do not worry about the fog of war.

An example of how the operation works is what happened at our mission in Somalia. On Jan. 2, 1991, Ambassador James Bishop contacted the secretary of state and said that an evacuation was necessary — civil war had broken out. The secretary contacted the Pentagon and contact was also made with the White House and other agencies.

The first Gulf War was going on, and the nearest assets were in the Arabian Sea. It was decided that two ships deployed there were to be sent to Somalia, 1,000 nautical miles away. When the ships were within 450 nautical miles of Somalia they launched two heavy-lift transport helicopters with 52 Marines and eight Navy SEALs. After two aerial refuelings they arrived at the embassy only to find it empty. It seems the Department of State had moved the mission to a new embassy and forgotten to update the plan. After about 30 minutes of searching, they found the new embassy. They secured it and awaited the arrival of additional helicopters to complete the evacuation. There were more than 280 people from 30 countries safely evacuated. And no one was killed.

The question is why such an evacuation was not put into play for Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and the other mission members in Benghazi. There was a small detachment at the CIA facility just minutes away, yet they were told to stand down.

There were two detachments at the embassy in Tripoli: one from the Department of State, with about 10 people, and the other an Army unit with about a dozen men. They were both outfitted and trained for this sort of mission and able to be in Benghazi in a little more than an hour. There are also other assets in Rota, Spain, and Sigonella, Italy (and several other places) that could have been there in hours. Yet they, too, were told to stand down. Further, the CIA, Department of State and the Department of Defense told their assets to stand down. Why?


Santa Fe, N.M.

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