A Retired Admiral’s Take on Benghazi

The following is a letter that was re-printed in a military newsletter I get from a retired navy admiral to Bill O’Reilly regarding the entire Benghazi affair.  I originally posted this at the end of the recent Benghazi thread.

Mr. O’Reilly,

I am mad as hell because the truth about how combatant commanders and the department of state can and should protect embassies is not being clearly explained. The fact is that there are policies, precedent, resources and procedures that could and should have prevented the embassy in Benghazi from coming under attack, or defended it if it did come under attack, or vacated it if the threat was too high. The ongoing discussion on your show and elsewhere that centers on the video and subsequent cover up is necessary as is the discussion about whether or not we should have responded during the attack. But those discussions have not brought to light the fact that none of this should have happened in the first place.

Fact: The combatant commanders, in this case AFRICOM, have access to our national inventory of intelligence community resources as well as international resources in order to thoroughly understand the risks and threats in any part of their Area of Responsibility (AOR). The complete picture of what was happening in Libya should have been known by AFRICOM leaders and this should have been briefed up the chain daily.

Fact: The first two cornerstones of AFRICOM’s mission are (1) Deter and defeat transnational threats posed by al-Qa’ida and other extremist organizations and (2) Protect U.S. security interests by ensuring the safety of Americans and American interests from transnational threats… In other words it is the mission of AFRICOM to prevent exactly what happened at the embassy in Benghazi.

Fact: The policy is for AFRICOM leaders to work in-conjunction with the state department’s Regional Security Officer (RSO) to establish the threat and then work with the Joint Staff and inter-agency to quickly provide plans and resources to deny that threat.

Fact: There are units specifically designed to bolster security in embassies. The USMC has three companies of Fleet Antiterrorism Security Teams (FAST) and one of these companies (or units from it) could have been deployed to FASTEUR in Rota, Spain, as the risk materialized. Each company has six platoons of 50 men each.

Fact: In July 2003 when I was the J3 at European command (AFRICOM had not been created yet) we had a similar situation develop in Liberia whereby two warring factions were threatening the embassy in Monrovia. The EUCOM team began planning for embassy support PRIOR to Ambassador Blaney’s request. When he did ask for help, we responded immediately, worked with his staff and received SECDEF approval to deploy a single FAST team platoon from Rota to the embassy to provide security. We worked with the Joint Staff and created the mission and structure for Joint Task Force Liberia, an anti-terrorism force based upon USS Iwo Jima and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).

Fact: Elements from the MEU arrived and relieved the FAST platoon. The warring parties signed a cease fire, the embassy in Monrovia was secured, no Americans were hurt.

So, the questions are:

1. What was the assessed level of threat in Libya prior to the September attack?

2. If it was not considered high then what were the intelligence failures that lead to that wrong conclusion?

3. If the threat was considered high then why wasn’t a FAST team or other resource deployed?

4. What did Ambassador Stephen’s see as his threat and what did he ask for? If he asked for help and was not provided it, that is inconceivable to me. My two bosses at EUCOM, General Chuck Wald (USAF) and General James L. Jones (USMC) would have bent over backwards to provide anything the ambassador asked for and more. They would have leaned on the Joint Staff to provide the authority to deploy and, in fact, during the Liberian situation described above, they were pushing me every day to provide solutions for the Joint Staff to approve. And should anyone forget, this was July of 2003. We were already in Afghanistan and had invaded Iraq just four months before. We were busy but not preoccupied.

Very Respectfully,
Hamlin Tallent
RADM, USN, retired

The admiral raises a lot of good points.  I guess we’ll see where this goes.  At least the right guy is chairing the select committee.  If Congressman Goudy doesn’t have the cajones to get to the whole truth in this matter, then I doubt that anyone can.




5 thoughts on “A Retired Admiral’s Take on Benghazi

  1. Cluster May 8, 2014 / 6:50 pm

    My question is “why were we there in the first place?”, considering that every trusted ally had already left insisting that the place was too dangerous.

    Everyone knows what transpired on that fateful day, but here is an interesting time line of what led up to that day from the National Review:

    March 2011: U.S. secretly approves arms shipments from Qatar to Libyan rebels.

    May 2011: Al-Qaeda flags raised over Benghazi.

    November 2011: Rebel leader Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi admits a significant number of Libyan rebels were al-Qaeda fighters who fought American troops in Iraq.

    April 19, 2012: State Department rejects ambassador to Libya’s request for more security personnel.

    June 20, 2012: Assassination attempt on the British Ambassador to Libya.

    July 9, 2012: Ambassador Stevens asks the State Department for more security personnel.

    August 8, 2012: The number of security personnel at Benghazi reduced by State Department.

    August 16, 2012: U.S. Site Security in Benghazi alerts the State Department that conditions are perilous.

    September 4, 2012: Gallup presidential tracking poll: Obama 47 percent; Romney 46 percent.

    September 4–6, 2012: Democratic National Convention (“al-Qaeda decimated; bin Laden is dead and GM is alive; al-Qaeda is on the run”).


  2. M. Noonan May 9, 2014 / 1:48 am

    To me, this is the true scandal of Benghazi – not whether there was a stand-down order, but why wasn’t there a “stand-up” order? Such an order, of course, can only be given by the President…but Obama, from all accounts, was no where to be found as the Benghazi events were on-going. Its not like Obama’s staff and senior cabinet officials don’t know where the man is. I’m sure that if the SecState or SecDef need to get hold of the President, wherever he is, this can be arranged in seconds. But, no Obama – he was, they say, informed and then he’s completely out of the loop. Where was he?

    In the answer to that question is the problem: my bet is that he wasn’t around because it was decided, in order to maintain the “al-Qaeda is on the run” narrative that the President could not be involved in Benghazi – the only thing he could have done is order the military in, but that would make it clear that the United States had been hit by a major terrorist attack on the anniversary of 9/11…and, worse, an attack we were warned about but didn’t at all prepare for. So, Obama’s staff insulated him – allowed the attack to play out unfettered (with the resultant four dead Americans) and started to craft the story that it was a spontaneous demonstration which got out of hand and which was triggered by a video. The whole thing was to keep Obama viable for 2012 (it could also have been to cover up arms transfers, of course – we are now learning that, among others, Boko Haram got Libyan weapons…who knows where they all wound up as Team Obama tried to get them out of Libya by any means available. It is also interesting that we learn Hillary refused to declare Boko Haram a terrorist group – given that it is al-Qaeda allied, we now know why: to designate it is to admit that al-Qaeda is not on the run).

  3. Retired Spook May 9, 2014 / 7:42 am

    The whole thing was to keep Obama viable for 2012

    I also kind of fault the Romney campaign for not developing the resources to exploit the truth behind this. So when it came to the debate, and Candy Crowley threw that curve at Romney, he had nowhere to go. Too bad he didn’t have the presence of mind to ask her to read the passage in question since she claimed to (conveniently) have the transcript in front of her.

    I still maintain that this is more of a crime (treason), than a scandal. We provided weapons to, as Obama said in the debate, our primary global enemy. Also too bad, when Obama insisted that Al Queda was our main adversary and not Russia as Romney maintained, that Romney did say something like, “well, Al Queda can’t be much of an enemy — you’re providing weapons to them.” Oh well, water under the bridge as they say.

    • M. Noonan May 9, 2014 / 3:47 pm

      True, and a lot of this is now just “for the record”, as it were – but even that is important. Its why Matt and I wrote Worst President: so that no matter how much people try to obfuscate it there will always be a quick and contemporary compendium of what Obama did. Anyone who does take the time to read it will be astounded at it all.

    • Amazona May 10, 2014 / 11:59 am

      It was a fairly big step for me to get from idiocy to treason, but I think I am there. It is one thing for a president of the United States to have an emotional attachment to a cause, a movement, a religion, whatever, because of a family relationship or a religious relationship. It is quite another to let this override national security, and to offer aid and comfort to this entity after it has repeatedly stated, and proved, its intent and desire to destroy this nation.

      President Kennedy was proud of his Irish roots and name, and he was a Catholic, but if Irish Catholics had attacked this nation on our own soil, murdering thousands, and had set out (with some success) to kill Americans abroad, and were routinely attacking our embassies, presidential support for the groups representing this movement would never have been tolerated, no matter what his religion and ancestry.

      The actions and agendas of our current president have convinced me that the Founders DID mean “natural born citizen” to mean the son (or daughter) of American citizens, for the reasons given at that time—–the dangers of having a president who grew up in a family with allegiance to another country. We are now experiencing the harsh reality of having a president who grew up adoring a father who hated the United States, reared by a mother and grandparents who hated the United States, influenced by a father figure who hated the United States, with emotional allegiance to forces antithetical to the very principles upon which this nation was founded.

      Now we see these loyalties expressed, in the administration’s support of anti-American militant groups. If not actual treason, it’s uncomfortably close, and should be examined.

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