Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


US team 'stopped' from going to Benghazi

07 May 2013, 09:20

Washington - A team of US special forces ready to head to Benghazi, Libya, after the assault on the American diplomatic mission had ended was told to stand down, according to a former top diplomat.

Gregory Hicks also told Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that if the US military had flown aircraft over the Benghazi facility after it came under siege it might have prevented the second attack on the CIA annex that killed two CIA security officers.

Excerpts of the interview with the former deputy chief in Libya were released on Monday in advance of Hicks' testimony on Wednesday before the panel.

The September 11 2012, assault killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. Nearly eight months later, Republicans insist that the Obama administration is guilty of a cover-up of the events despite a scathing independent report that faulted the State Department for inadequate security at the diplomatic mission.

Hicks' comments and the hearing are likely to revive the politically charged debate in which Republican lawmakers and outside groups have faulted former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a possible presidential candidate in 2016.

After the first word of the attack in Benghazi, a seven-member security team, including two military personnel, flew from Tripoli to Benghazi. Upon their arrival, they learned that Stevens was missing and the situation had calmed after the first attack, according to a Pentagon timeline released last year.

Meanwhile, a second team was preparing to leave on a Libyan C-130 cargo plane from Tripoli to Benghazi when Hicks said he learned from the Libyan prime minister that Stevens was dead. The Libyan military agreed to transport additional US personnel to Benghazi on its cargo plane, but Hicks complained the special forces were told not to make the trip.

"They were told not to board the flight, so they missed it," Hicks told Republican committee staff. Pressed on why, he said, "I guess they just didn't have the right authority from the right level."

The fact of the matter

Defence officials said on Monday that four members of Army special forces were in Tripoli on September 11 2012, as part of a regular training mission. The officials said they were trying to track down information about the Libyan cargo plane and could not verify whether or not the special forces were told not to get on the plane.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the matter publicly, said it is normal procedure for US service members to get permission to fly on another country's military aircraft.

That flight left Tripoli after the second attack on the CIA annex that killed two security officers - Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.

Hicks also contended that if the US military has scrambled jet fighters after the first attack that it would have prevented the mortar attack on the CIA annex around 05:15.

"I believe the Libyans would have split. They would have been scared to death that we would have gotten a laser on them and killed them," Hicks said, according to the excerpts.

Former Defence Secretary Leon Panetta and other military leaders have said there wasn't enough time for the military to respond as the events in Benghazi occurred too quickly.

"The fact of the matter remains, as we have repeatedly indicated, that US military forces could not have arrived in time to mount a rescue of those Americans who were killed and injured that night," said Pentagon press secretary George Little.

At the State Department on Monday, spokesperson Patrick Ventrell said the committee's work appeared to have political aims rather than ensuring the protection of US diplomats serving overseas.

The truth

"It certainly seems so, so far," he replied when asked if the department believed the investigation to be driven by partisan politics. "I mean, this is not sort of a collaborative process where the committee is working directly with us and trying to establish facts that would help as we look to keep our people safe overseas in a very complex environment."

Democrats on the committee said on Monday they have been excluded from the investigation.

Ventrell said the department had not seen the full transcript of Hicks' statements to committee investigators and could not comment until it had or until after his testimony on Wednesday. At the same time, he insisted that the department was not blocking any employee from appearing before Congress or intimidating them into silence.

"We understand this testimony's going to go forward, and we want people to go and tell the truth," he told reporters. "But in terms of the full context of these remarks or these sort of accusations, we don't have the full context, so it's hard for us to respond."

Ventrell also pushed back against allegations from congressional Republicans and their surrogates that the independent panel appointed by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had not conducted a comprehensive or credible investigation into the Benghazi incident and were somehow involved in a cover-up.

He noted that the independent panel, called the Accountability Review Board, had produced a harshly critical report, blaming systematic leadership and management failures at senior levels of the State Department for the inadequate security at the Benghazi compound.

Meanwhile the co-chairs of the review board, retired Adm. Mike Mullen, the former chairperson of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and former senior diplomat Thomas Pickering, released a statement rejecting claims that their panel had been denied access to key witnesses or had conducted anything less than a thorough and impartial probe.

"From the beginning of the ARB process, we had unfettered access to everyone and everything including all the documentation we needed," the two men said. "Our marching orders were to get to the bottom of what happened, and that's what we did."

Meanwhile, the former head of the State Department's counterterrorism bureau, Daniel Benjamin, denied allegations that his office had been cut out of the loop in the discussions and decision-making processes in the aftermath of the attack.

"This charge is simply untrue," he said. "At no time did I feel that the bureau was in any way being left out of deliberations that it should have been part of."


- AP


Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...