Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, has offered a different set of events about the U.S. military response to a terror attack in Benghazi, Libya, Sept. 11 of last year.
A prominent U.S. diplomat to Libya made headlines last month when he told a congressional committee that the U.S. military did not do all it could to respond to a terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi. The attack resulted in the death of U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
Gregory Hicks, the former deputy chief of mission for the U.S. embassy in Tripoli, testified that a team of special operations soldiers were told to stand down rather than provide assistance to the victims of the Benghazi attack.
Hicks said that they were ready to go, having had chartered a plane that would ferry them from Tripoli to Benghazi. Hicks testified that a military representative from Special Operations Africa, and Army lieutenant colonel, got a call and was told to stand down.
“He got a phone call from SOCAFRICA which said, “you can’t go now, you don’t have authority to go now,” Hicks recalled.
Yesterday before congress, Dempsey, the president’s top military advisory, disputed that claim.
“They weren’t told to stand down,” Dempsey said flatly.
Dempsey said that an evacuation of the wounded in Benghazi was underway, and they were being flown to Tripoli. One of the members of the combat team was a medic, and would have been better served receiving the casualties at the airport in Tripoli.
“A ‘stand down’ means don’t do anything,” he said. “They were told that the mission they were asked to perform was not in Benghazi, but was at Tripoli airport.”
Dempsey said that after he heard Hicks’ testimony, he double checked to ensure he knew what orders were given.
He said that had the special forces team left for Benghazi, “they would have simply passed each other in the air.”
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