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.
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.
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.