Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Pentagon Alerted Within 50 Minutes of Benghazi Attack in Libya

Pentagon Alerted Within 50 Minutes of Benghazi Attack in Libya

David Lerman and Tony Capaccio, ©2012 Bloomberg News

Published 4:51 p.m., Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Nov. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was alerted about 50 minutes after the start of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and dispatched troops from Europe within hours, according to a timeline by the Defense Department.

The timeline released today responds to statements by some Republicans before the Nov. 6 election that President Barack Obama’s administration failed to respond to requests for military aid or for rescue efforts during the Sept. 11 attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

While President Barack Obama ordered “all available” Pentagon assets to respond to the attacks, no armed planes were near Benghazi at the time, Panetta said today in a letter to members of Congress.

An unarmed surveillance drone was directed to the Benghazi compound 17 minutes after the attack began and arrived over the site about 70 minutes later, according to the timeline.

The attack began at 3:42 p.m. Washington time. At a meeting that evening that began at 6 p.m., Panetta authorized the deployment of a Marine Corps anti-terrorism teams to Benghazi and Tripoli from Rota, Spain as well as a Europe-based special operations team. He also ordered a U.S.-based special operations force to prepare to deploy to a staging base in southern Europe.

At 6:30 p.m. Washington time, a six-member security team from the U.S. embassy in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, departed for Benghazi and arrived about an hour later -- almost four hours after the attack began.

A second facility in Benghazi, known as a safe house, came under mortar and rocket fire at 11:15 p.m., the Pentagon said.

C-17 Sent

The U.S. Africa Command ordered a C-17 cargo plane in Germany to prepare to deploy to Libya to evacuate Americans about 50 minutes later.

The first wave of American personnel departed Benghazi for Tripoli at about 1:40 a.m. Washington time, with a second wave departing at about 4 a.m.

At 8:15 a.m., the C-17 departed Germany for Tripoli. It picked up American personnel and the remains of Stevens and three other Americans and left Tripoli for Germany at 1:17 p.m.

The first of the troops dispatched by Panetta the previous evening began arriving from just before 3 p.m. Washington time, long after the attack had ended. Most got no further than an intermediate staging area in southern Europe.

“Before they arrived in place, the attack in Benghazi had concluded,” Panetta said in his letter

--Editors: Larry Liebert, Terry Atlas

To contact the reporter on this story: David Lerman in Washington at dlerman1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Walcott at jwalcott9@bloomberg.net

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/business/bloomberg/article/Pentagon-Alerted-Within-50-Minutes-of-Benghazi-4034415.php#ixzz2CAN4SuZi

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