After getting under fire during the campaign season for not deploying enough forces to Libya following the Benghazi attacks, Pentagon has now released a timeline of events defending its response.
Senior defense officials, who chose to remain anonymous, declined criticism from GOP and others accusing Obama and the Pentagon for failing to deploy forces to Benghazi, immediately after the attacks despite having knowledge of the nature of the unrest.
"The Department of Defense acted quickly after learning of the incidents unfolding in Benghazi," said one official, noting that Marines, special forces and other military assets were already employed and those that weren’t were immediately put in motion during the attack. "Unfortunately, no alternative or additional aircraft options were available within a timeline to be effective," the official added.
The final weeks of Obama’s presidential campaign saw the candidate under immense pressure over the issue. According to the timeline released by Pentagon, a surveillance drone was ordered immediately into the city as soon as the news of attacks reached the US military base. However, it took the drone more than an hour to reach the US Consulate. Defense Secretary,learned about the attacks approximately 50 minutes later and a meeting with Obama was scheduled right away.
However, the US Ambassador Christopher Stevens could not be rescued in time from his smoke filled chamber inside the consulate. "When initial reports came in, we knew the ambassador could not be reached," a senior defense official told reporters according to a report by Reuters. "We were looking at the possibility of a potential hostage-rescue scenario, for instance. So we didn't know if this was going to be an hours-long event or a days-long even or longer."
The meeting taking place between Panetta and Obama resulted in verbal orders to deploy two teams of Marine anti-terrorism troops into the region to provide security to other US officials in the area, while two Special Forces units were also sent.
Later, the Pentagon timeline notes that a security team comprising of six men was sent from the embassy in Tripoli, and it reached the airport in Benghazi at 1:30 am, Libya time. The team was taken to the CIA base in the city at about 5:15 am and an hour later, the Libya military forces reached the US Consulate and began their evacuation efforts.