Wednesday, April 24, 2013

But Not to the Shores of Benghazi

The House of Representatives has issued a report on the Benghazi attack. I still want to know why US military forces weren't sent to assist our people in the two Benghazi facilities.

Remember, we sent para-military security forces very quickly despite how few were available and despite the lack of information on what was happening. Why didn't our military respond the same way? With tens of thousands of troops in Europe, we really couldn't scrape up a platoon or a company to fly out to Benghazi without preparing them with a week of rehearsals and a PowerPoint briefing about what to expect?

What happened to going to the sounds of the guns with whatever you have right now? What happened to a sense of wartime urgency?

Oh, I know--it wasn't there. Two days before this attack, our national security people couldn't seem to come up with any relevant real world threat to convince people to stay prepared for emergencies, and ginned up a zombie threat to encourage preparedness. That speaks to a government that just doesn't think we are at war.

We clearly didn't have time to rescue the ambassador at his location. We certainly had time to reach the annex in time. And remember that we didn't know that the annex defenders would hold and evacuate survivors successfully in the morning when we did not act overnight. We appeared to have written off the people on the ground rather than react as if they might need help.

Were White House speech writers already working up a moving tribute to the nearly three dozen assumed to be dead or doomed to die when they found out that the survivors were holding out in the annex? It's almost as if the survival of most of our people was an inconvenience that highlighted a failure to fight rather than being an unfortunate opportunity for a somber, serious, and presidential tribute to dead props and an appeal to film makers around the world to be sensitive to Islam.

But no such speech could be given. In the morning, our annex was still there. What if the annex had been assaulted again the next day? Troops and aircraft dispatched quickly that could not reach the annex before the defenders evacuated our people in the morning would have been able to arrive in time to help defend the annex if our people there had instead been trapped and under siege.

Or perhaps if the annex had been overrun by jihadis, our forces could have arrived in time to retake the annex and rescue our people; or pursue the attackers if they started moving our people out of the annex deep inland for a hostage situation.

But we didn't move. And only the failure of the attackers to lay siege to the annex in the face of the tenacity of the few annex defenders and some friendly Libyan militias who did not abandon us kept our failure to move whatever we had available from ending in several dozen dead Americans or a new hostage crisis with our people held hostage.

This is no way to fight a war.

(UPDATE: Thanks to Mad Minerva for the link.)

Report timeline is as follows:

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

All times are Eastern European Time (EET, Benghazi)

~9:42 p.m. The attack begins at the TMF in Benghazi. Dozens of lightly armed men approached the TMF, quickly and deliberately breached the front gate, and set fire to the guard house and main diplomatic building. The attackers included members of Libya-based Ansar al-Sharia (AAS) and al-Qa’ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), among other groups. A State Department officer in the TMF’sTactical Operations Center immediately put out calls for help to the TMF Annex -- another facility for U.S. officials -- the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, and State Department Headquarters in Washington, DC. At the time of the attack,Ambassador Stevens, Sean Smith, the information management officer, and one of the five Diplomatic Security (DS) officers were located in Villa C, the main building of the TMF. (DoD timeline/pg. 11)

9:59 p.m. An unarmed, unmanned, surveillance aircraft is directed to reposition overhead the Benghazi facility. (DoD timeline)

~10:02 p.m. Within 20-minutes of the attack, Stevens, Smith, and the DS officer suffered effects from smoke inhalation inside the main diplomatic building and tried to escape by crawling along the floor towards a window. The DS officer unknowingly lost touch with Ambassador Stevens and Mr. Smith somewhere along the smoke-filled escape route. After crawling out of a window and realizing that Ambassador Stevens and Mr. Smith were not with him, the DS officer, under gunfire, repeatedly re-entered the burning building to search for them. The DS officer used his radio to call for help. Security officers from other parts of the TMF complex responded and supported the DS officer’s search for the missing individuals. (pg. 11)

10:05 p.m. In an “Ops Alert” issued shortly after the attack began, the State Department Operations Center notified senior Department Officials, the White House Situation Room, and others, that the Benghazi compound was under attack and that “approximately 20 armed people fired shots; explosions have been heard as well.”

~10:07 p.m. A U.S. security team departed the Annex for the TMF. The security team tried to secure heavy weapons from militia members encountered along the route, and faced some resistance in getting to the TMF. Even in the face of those obstacles,the Annex security team arrived, under enemy fire, within 25 minutes of the beginning of the initial assault. Over the course of the following hour, the Annex security team joined the TMF security officers in searching for Ambassador Stevens and Mr. Smith. Together, they repelled sporadic gunfire and RPG fire and assembled all other U.S. personnel at the facility. Officers retrieved the body of Mr. Smith, but did not find Ambassador Stevens.

10:32 p.m. The National Military Command Center at the Pentagon, after receiving initial reports of the incident from the State Department, notifies the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Staff. The information is quickly passed to Secretary Panetta and General Dempsey. (DoD timeline)

11:00 p.m. Secretary Panetta and General Dempsey attend a previously scheduled meeting with the President at the White House. The leaders discuss potential responses to the emerging situation. (DoD timeline)

11:10 p.m. The diverted surveillance aircraft arrives on station over the Benghazi facility.(DoD timeline)

~11:15 p.m. After about 90 minutes of repeated attempts to go into the burning building to search for the Ambassador, the Annex security team assessed that the security situation was deteriorating and they could not continue their search. The Annex security team loaded all U.S. personnel into two vehicles and departed the TMF for the Annex. The exiting vehicles left under heavy gunfire and faced at least one roadblock in their route to the Annex. The first vehicle left around 11:15 p.m. and the second vehicle departed at about 11:30 p.m. All surviving American personnel departed the facility by 11:30 p.m.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

12:06 a.m. In a second “Ops Alert” the State Department Operations Center reported that al-Qaeda linked Ansar al-Sharia claimed responsibility for the attack and had called for an attack on Embassy Tripoli12:00-2:00 a.m. Secretary Panetta convenes a series of meetings in the Pentagon with senior officials including General Dempsey and General Ham. They discuss additional response options for Benghazi and for the potential outbreak of further violence throughout the region, particularly in Tunis, Tripoli, Cairo, and Sana’a.During these meetings, Secretary Panetta authorizes:

--A Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team (FAST) platoon, stationed in Rota,Spain, to prepare to deploy to Benghazi, and a second FAST platoon, also stationed in Rota, Spain, to prepare to deploy to the Embassy in Tripoli.

--A EUCOM special operations force, which is training in Central Europe,to prepare to deploy to an intermediate staging base in southern Europe.

--A special operations force based in the United States to prepare to deploy to an intermediate staging base in southern Europe.

During this period, actions are verbally conveyed from the Pentagon to the affected Combatant Commands in order to expedite movement of forces upon receipt of formal authorization.

12:30 a.m. A seven-man security team from U.S. Embassy Tripoli, including two DoD personnel, departs for Benghazi.

~1:15 a.m. The American security team from Tripoli lands in Benghazi. (DoD timeline)

2:30 a.m. The National Military Command Center conducts a Benghazi Conference Call with representatives from AFRICOM, EUCOM, CENTCOM, TRANSCOM, SOCOM, and the four services.

2:39 a.m. As ordered by Secretary Panetta, the National Military Command Center transmits formal authorization for the two FAST platoons, and associated equipment, to prepare to deploy and for the EUCOM special operations force, and associated equipment, to move to an intermediate staging base in southern Europe.

2:53 a.m. As ordered by Secretary Panetta, the National Military Command Center transmits formal authorization to deploy a special operations force, and associated equipment, from the United States to an intermediate staging base in southern Europe.

5:00 a.m. A second, unmanned, unarmed surveillance aircraft is directed to relieve the initial asset still over Benghazi.

5:15 a.m. At around 5:15 a.m., within 15 minutes of the Tripoli team’s arrival at the Annex from the airport, a short but deadly coordinated terrorist attack began at the Annex. The attack, which included small arms, rocket-propelled grenade (RPG), and well-aimed mortar fire, killed two American security officers, and severely wounded two others.

6:05 a.m. AFRICOM orders a C-17 aircraft in Germany to prepare to deploy to Libya to evacuate Americans.

7:40 a.m. The first wave of American personnel depart Benghazi for Tripoli via airplane.(DoD timeline)

10:00 a.m. The second wave of Americans, including the fallen, depart Benghazi for Tripoli via airplane.

2:15 p.m. The C-17 departs Germany en route to Tripoli to evacuate Americans.

7:17 p.m. The C-17 departs Tripoli en route Ramstein, Germany with the American personnel and the remains of Mr. Sean Smith, Mr. Tyrone Woods, and Mr. Glen Doherty.

7:57 p.m. The EUCOM special operations force, and associated equipment, arrives at an intermediate staging base in southern Europe.

8:56 p.m. The FAST platoon, and associated equipment, arrives in Tripoli.

9:28 p.m. The special operations force deployed from the United States, and associated equipment, arrives at an intermediate staging base in southern Europe.

10:19 p.m. The C-17 arrives in Ramstein, Germany