In the days running up to the 9/11/2012 terrorist attack on our Benghazi consulate, we now know the following:
- no attack aircraft were placed on high alert on Sept 11
- the closest F-16 fighter planes to any of the trouble spots in North Africa were unarmed and in Aviano, Italy
- the closest air refuellers were positioned 10 hours away in Great Britain
- no AC-130 gunships were within a 10-hour flight to Libya
- the commander’s in-extremis force, which included a unit of 23 special operators who are used at the commander’s discretion, were training in Croatia that day. They did not make it to a staging base in Sigonella, Italy, for another 19 hours after the attack began
Northern Africa had been an active trouble area with civil wars in progress or just dying down for the prior couple of years. The US had—and has—facilities, assets, personnel, friends, allies, and potential allies in the area for far longer than that. Yet we chose to take no heads-up action in preparation for a major anti-US anniversary regarding an area of the world likely to…celebrate…that anniversary? The in-extremis force’s posture could be laid off to bad luck; such units need to train intensively, and they need to do it in realistic arenas. Maybe their training could have been rescheduled around such an anniversary, though. Regardless, there is no excuse for the rest of the non-preparation.
Even more troubling, however, are these:
- Neither [AFRICOM Joint Special Operations Task Force for the Trans Sahara region Commander, Col George] Bristol, nor his chief military officer on the ground in Tripoli that night, LtCol Sean Gibson, was ever interviewed by the State Department’s Accountability Review Board (ARB)
- DoD did not conduct its own internal after-action review separate from the ARB
Why not? Isn’t anyone in this administration the least bit interested in finding out, and understanding, what happened and how to anticipate future such occurrences?
Or is it that they won’t ask the questions because they don’t want to hear, or are afraid of, the answers?