WASHINGTON, Nov. 10, 2012 - The Defense Department released a timeline yesterday of the Pentagon's response to the September attack in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.
A senior defense official, speaking on background with Pentagon reporters, emphasized:
"With naval, Marine, special operations and air forces either employed or en route to Libya during the attacks, we responded," the official said. "We mourn the loss of four American heroes in Benghazi."
The attack on the U.S. consulate began at 3:42 p.m. EDT [9:42 p.m. Benghazi time].
By 5:10 EDT an unarmed surveillance aircraft was on station over the Benghazi compound.
By 5:30 p.m., all surviving Americans had left the consulate, the official noted, adding that defense officials didn't have that information until later.
At 6:30 p.m. EDT, according to the timeline, a six-person security team, including two DOD members, left the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli for Benghazi.
By 8:39 p.m., the official said, the command center had started issuing written orders for the forces the secretary had alerted. [Four hours after the attack started.]
At 11 p.m. EDT, the official said, a second unmanned, unarmed surveillance aircraft relieved the first,
and at 11:15 p.m. -- around 5 a.m. Sept. 12 in Benghazi -- the second U.S. facility there, an annex near the consulate, came under mortar and rocket-propelled grenade fire.
By 1:40 a.m. EDT Sept. 12, the first wave of Americans left Benghazi for Tripoli by airplane, with the second wave, including the bodies of the fallen,
following at 4 a.m. A C-17 aircraft, under Africom direction, flew the evacuees from Tripoli to Germany later that day, the official said.
In the Middle East and North Africa on Sept. 11, the official added, U.S. facilities in more than 16 countries were operating on a heightened force-protection level, based on specific threats. [Which would warrant at least 2-4 FAST and/or Special Operations teams being on standby, ready to fly.]
"I would note ... that there was no specific or credible threat that we knew of on the day that the attacks ... occurred in Benghazi," the official said. "Unfortunately, no alternative or additional aircraft options were available within ... [enough time] to be effective," the official said. [If a slow moving drone could get on target within 2 hours and be replaced 6 hrs later, a fast moving fighter, which also should have been on standby, considering the wideranging threats, could have made it there in less time. Defenders, on the ground, were painting the attacking mortars for strikes.]
The DOD timeline records that in the first hours following the initial attack, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, conferred first with the president, and shortly after with senior officials including Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, who leads U.S. Africa Command. [Within hours!?!?!]
During those meetings, the official said, Panetta verbally ordered two fleet antiterrorism security team, or FAST, platoons to prepare to deploy from their base in Rota, Spain. The secretary also issued verbal prepare-to-deploy orders for a U.S. European Command special operations force then training in Central Europe and a second special operations force based in the United States.
[But dithering by Obama and Panetta resulted in no re-inforcements arriving to assist in the defense of Our Diplomats.]
The official noted the Pentagon's National Military Command Center staff, within hours of the attack, began planning support and contingency operations with transportation and special operations experts, as well as with representatives from the four services and Africa, Europe and Central commands. [When bullets are flying, the time for "planning" is over. It's time to act, not analyze, not plan, not talk. It is time to decide and act.]