Resources available for Tripoli embassy evacuation raise questions about Benghazi

Credit: 1LT Maida Kalic/Marine Corps via Military Times

I remember sitting in the House Armed Services Committee hearing on Benghazi and hearing then-Secretary of Defense Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman General Dempsey telling us it simply wasn’t possible to move any resources in for support at that time. Thanks to an article in the Military Times, we get a window into the forces that were available this past weekend to secure the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli.

As reported, “Dozens of U.S. Marines and at least seven military aircraft were involved in Saturday’s embassy evacuation operation in Libya. Military officials have not disclosed the precise number of Marines assigned to the embassy in Libya, but NBC News reported Saturday that 80 “heavily armed” Marines were among the 158 Americans who vacated the compound. Embassy staff and their Marine escorts left the capital around 5 a.m.”

“The operation lasted five hours, ending without incident, officials said. Overhead, three Air Force F-16 fighters and two Marine Corps MV-22 Ospreys kept watch on the convoy, said Tom Saunders, a spokesman for U.S. Africa Command in Germany. The aircraft were accompanied by an unspecified number of surveillance drones.”

“The F-16s, which flew out of Aviano Air Base in Italy, were supported by a KC-135 aerial refueling tanker from RAF Mildenhall in England, Saunders said. A 24-man Marine quick reaction force and a two-person medical team were inside the Ospreys, Saunders said. They were supported by a KC-130 refueling tanker. All of those personnel are assigned to Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force (SP-MAGTF) Crisis Response based in Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy. The crisis-response force and Task Force Tripoli are manned by members of 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C. They are scheduled to be replaced in the coming weeks by members of 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines, also out of Lejeune.”

Lessons learned? Sure, one would hope so, but I can assure you that two years ago, the same mission set was available at the same duty stations. My first tour of duty was in Italy and I know Aviano AB quite well. Fighter jets have been stationed there since I was a young Lieutenant during1984-1987. And having served with the II Marine Expeditionary Force from 1999-2002, I know very well of the Marine Expeditionary Units (MEUs) that float from Camp Lejeune with mission responsibilities in the Mediterranean supporting three geographical CINCs (EUCOM, AFRICOM, and some CENTCOM). As the Military Times article shows, it’s a regular rotation lasting anywhere from 6-8 months.

And that doesn’t even count the “in extremis” counter-terrorism force assigned to every geographical CINC. So the obvious question is, what was the difference between this past Saturday and two years ago? My first assessment would be incompetence, because these assets were available — perhaps not immediately for the initial assault against the Benghazi special mission compound (SMC) – but still available

Say what you wish, but it sure looks to me like the ball was dropped — or maybe it was dropped purposefully?

33 COMMENTS

  1. Ambassador Stevens was running guns to the ‘rebels’ and was no longer useful, or was a threat and had to be silenced. That is my theory.

  2. Look at what just happened to cause this. Its a dangerous place. Sh#t happens. This certainly wasn’t done this weekend at the drop of a hat, it can’t be done. At least some prep time is required. Amb. Stevens had none. And thus there were no options. Sad. But that’s the price we pay for being engaged in the world.

    • Are you saying that some sort of military response wasn’t possible? From what facts or experience are you basing this on? As a 20 year military veteran with experiences in the Army, Marines, and Navy, I see no fault with the Colonels assessment. I have completed 5 deployments with the Marines and Navy in the Mediterranean AOR and I was stationed at NAS Sigonella, IT for 3 years. You can say I know the AOR very well.

      • Well here it is, right from FOX news, so it HAS to be true…ROFLMAO. YOu spent 20 years i the military doing what, working at the gym? Anybody with a lick of operational experience would know that getting troops or aircraft to repsond to a situatio like this would take MANY hours. Only Scottie could beam people in and even then the fog of war makes commanders very reluctant to throw soliders and airmen into situations about which they know practically nothing. http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/04/10/gop-chairman-satisfied-with-military-response-to-benghazi-attack/

      • There are units within our armed forces specifically purposed for these types of missions.

        http://www.navytimes.com/article/20140616/NEWS/306160027/FAST-Marines-U-S-soldiers-arrive-U-S-Embassy-compound-Iraq

        The security situation throughout Libya at the time deteriorated well before the Benghazi assault occured. Are you telling me that wasn’t a sufficient situation to reinforce or evac our assets in the area?

        The assault on Benghazi lasted for several hours. I can smell the continent of Africa from Sicily every morning. I guarantee assets would’ve been on station in less than 2 hours. I know this because I spent 3 years providing security for those assets. NS Rota, SP is very close as well which hosts the aforementioned FAST units. If that weren’t enough, there is always an ARG (Amphibious Readiness Group) with a MEU (SOC) (Marine Expeditionary Unit Special OPS Capable) in the 6th Fleet AOR for crisis response. So many assets, yet so many excuses for the loss of American lives.

        Just to quell your insecurities, I was primarily an Infantryman specifically trained for security assignments. My assignments ranged from shipboard security, maritime interdiction, airfield security, and depot security.

      • I agree with you Paul. Benghazi lasted more than eight hours. The F-16s, from Aviano, could have been overhead in a about an hour. Even if they did not have clear targets to hit, their FLIRs could be used to send back realtime imaging of what was happening on the ground. That would give our other assets a clearer picture of what was needed.

      • F-16’s were not fueled and configured for close air support. This would have taken hours. Pilots need to be briefed. the distance between Aviano and Benghazi is over 1000 miles, nearly double the combat loaded range, so they would have to slow down to refuel. This whole thing was over in an hour. You are DREAMING. And the US already had a drone in the air sending pictures and i’m sure it only ADDED to the confusion. The fog of war.

      • You truly are an idiot that obviously has no clue about how long it takes to arm and fuel an aircraft. I served twenty years on the aviation side of the Navy and it doesn’t take that long to arm and fuel an aircraft. The military is trained to be able to respond on short notice. Had it been a state side base I might have agreed with you, but the fact of the matter is that our bases over seas can arm, fuel and launch an aircraft in a remarkably short period of time. Like I said you have no clue about the military and it’s capabilities. I’m not really surprised that your trying to spout off things as fact that you know nothing about since that is the only way a libtard can defend their positions.

      • no, you are the fool. it was 9-10 o’clock at night. people are gone, home in bed, whatever. They don’t have maintenance and armament people just sitting around 24/7 with their d#cks in their hands. And even if you got it done in 30 minutes, you gotta brief the pilots, its takes 30 mintues to an hour to properly preflight and aircraft and then there is the 3 hour ride. its 4-5 hours MINIMUM to get somebody there and then what do you do? What armaments did you load? Are they the right ones for the scenario present?. Just because you slopped fuel around for 20 years doesn’t give you ANY understanding of the logisitcs or tactics associated with this. People 10 pay grades above you decided not to go. Thats what they get paid to do. Typical enlisted know it all BS, that’s all you are.

      • You’re on a mission here, aren’t you ,sharpie? Your “people are gone, home in bed,….whatever” remark was not the only giveaway into your phoneybaloney authoritarian spiel, but it was just about the stupidest. You don’t have aclue as to what you’re talking about. You don’t even know how fast those aircraft fly or how far it is from the base to Benghazi. And “properly pre-flight an aircraft”? get out of here.

      • The military does not sit around 24/7 worldwide numbskull. Most places they work 10-12 hour days but they do go home. This is 11-12 o’clock at night. And i know EXACTLY what I’m talking about. And you don’t just hop into an F-16 and fly 1100 miles over the Med without pre flighting an aircraft. No pilot in his right mind would even attempt it. And I know exactly what the ranges and speeds of these aircraft are. And how configs use fuel or reduce airspeed. My life used to depend on it. You are just ignorant. Watched too many movies. WAY F’ing sharper than you.

      • Hate to burst everyone’s bubble but HanaMaui is 100% dead-on. As for the military’s rapid response capability there are units trained for these types of situations 24/7…and they were alerted/launched that night, but the tyranny of distance and time means those units, from where they launched from, were not physically possible to get there in time, and even if they did, the lack of good SA on what was happening prevented them from going any further. Like HanaMaui said, they don’t have the ability to teleport directly there, and he’s right about the “Lone Survivor” factor, too–a force like that doesn’t just HALO into a fight guns a blazin without some intel and some kind of plan. And HanaMaui is also dead-on about the response capability (or lack thereof) of Vipers (F-16s) from Aviano to Benghazi. Those units do NOT have crews on alert. Any response would have required the squadron leadership to A) find pilots with adequate-enough rest to fly a mission in the middle of the night B) have enough maintenance and ammo personnel to be able to generate jets, munitions, and get said munitions loaded onto said jets. Yes, Ozzy, it takes much less time to fuel/arm a jet…when you’ve planned for it and have everything lined up. You know how long pilots sometimes have to wait for the fuel truck to show up late at night even when it’s a scheduled flight? Just because Aviano is overseas doesn’t mean it’s anymore combat-postured than a stateside fighter base. You know what kind of flail happened on 9/11 at fighter bases that weren’t sitting alert? And that’s when something happened right at mid-morning in the middle of the flying schedule with everyone at work. And to William Torpey, yes, the whole event lasted hours, but the Amb Stevens was long dead by then, and more importantly, the F-16’s targeting pods cannot transmit beyond line-of-sight like Predators (or UAVs in other locations that have repeaters allowing their video to be distributed) so that point is moot. And Bobmontgomery, sorry, but the things you cite that show HanaMaui’s stupidity were actually spot on, so if you think he’s so far off the mark I think you might need to do a little research yourself.

      • You don’t just thorw assets into a situation like this without intelligence, maps, understanding exactly the nature of the threat to insure that the proper assets are deployed with the proper configuration. ROa is 1100 miles away. That’s 3-4 hours for transport MINIMUM. And the prep time would be 2-5 hours. You are insane to think that even under PERFECT conditions, anything could have been done. There is no way that could be done in 2 hours. NO WAY. And besides, the Ambassador and Sean Smith were dead with an hour of this starting. The other two died as a result of their failure to follow orders. So you were the military equivalent of a rent a cop. Not impressed.

      • Well, this discussion degraded quickly enough. I wasn’t stating my experience to impress you. I was stating it to demostrate my arguement isn’t ill-sourced. As for being a “Rent-A-Cop”, at least the government saw fit to train and equip us for success. I don’t know any “rent-a-cops” that spend a lot of time on 48 hr. standby waiting for an Admirals call.

      • YOu know nothing about what it takes to conduct close air support or special operations tactics. LEave it to the experts. Admirals and Generals WAY above you decided it was not worth the risk or it was futile to deploy. That’s all you need to know. Nobody TOLD them to stand down. They used thier 30+ years of experience and education to decide that it was not worth the risk, nor would it affect the outcome. Thats what they get paid to do and they made the right call. Nobody else got killed. Look at Lone Survivor. They go rushing in and 20 guys get killed trying to save 4. Sh#t happens. Get over it.

      • You know nothing about my experience aside from what I have told you. Let’s not make assumptions based on what I decided you needed to know. I’m sure you are familiar with what happens when you make assumptions.

        The biggest contention in this whole debate isn’t whether we were capable because The US Armed Forces is the most capable force on the globe. The question is why we didn’t even mount an attempt at providing support. No one, civilian or military, wants to be left behind, especially, by their own government.

      • i know what grunts do, give me a break. And one thing they DON”T do is get trained about close air support procedures. And you’ve completely missed the point. Whether this could have been done or not is not a matter of capability. With enough time and warning it MIGHT have been possible. but if you think the military can just snap its figers and pull off something like this you watch too much television. It is not possible at the drop of a hat and ALL the heads of the military said so last week at a Congressional Hearing which pretty much BLEW the GOP contention that if could have been done out of the water. IF there had been ANY possibility, they would have done it. THAT is how hopeless this situation was. GET OVER IT.

      • Did you not read the article? Chris stevens turned down offers from Gen Ham not once but twice. and Rota is 1100 miles away. that is 3 hours air time since the BEST case is you put these guy in a C-17. IF you use tactical aircraft, it could take 4-5 hours to get there. And it owuld take at LEAST an hour or two to get everyone there, geared up and the aircraft ready.For the 5th time, these guys were DEAD within an hour and nobody kew what was going on. I understand those capabilities are there. there just wasn’t any time and for the 5th time again, every Admiral, every Army and Air Force General said the same thing. YOu could have dropped the 82nd in 3 hours after it started and they would still be dead.

      • not one whine from my side. You have no facts or evidence to support your case. That’s why you name call. Lowest form of argument there is, not even really an argument. Its just ignorance.

  3. Key words: “the operation lasted five hours, ending without incident”. Yes, our troops can do this! Also reminds me of what was accomplished during “Operation Frequent Wind”.

    obama, hillary and rice had better start answering for the murders of the Benghazi four. No if’s and’s or but’s about it.

    • conisdering that they had days or weeks to plan. IT still took 5 hours. these guys were dead or nearly dead in less than an hour. Sad? Tragic? yes. but nothing could have been done for these people. Get over it.

      • There are soldiers who can dismantle Chinook helicopters, load them onto trains, move them, offload them and reassemble them in a matter of hours but that’s beside the point. You obviously do not know about military mobilization but that’s okay, those serving DO so that you may sleep easier tonite. Now set down your bong, get off the couch, pull up your pants, comb your hair and get outside and take in some fresh air. Might do ya some good.

      • good for them. these people didn’t have hours. They had minutes. And if you read anything i wrote, if it took 2 hours to get ready and ten 2-3 hours to get there, it was not even worth considering. That’s why it didn’t happen. How thick are you?

  4. Oh and one more thing: Seems Amb Stevens turned down offers of US Special Ops Security teams not once but twice within a month of this attack in favor of using local militia. When the attack came the locals split. Go figure. Think an 18 man Special OPs team would have made a difference? Rhetorical question. That call cost Chris Stevens and Sean Smith their lives. And the notion that the military could have pulled genie out of a bottle has been debunked over and over. Only people who believe in genies still think that could have happened. http://www.navytimes.com/article/20140115/NEWS05/301150016/Benghazi-report-AFRICOM-general-offered-ambassador-help-before-attack

      • Whining? we’re winning, you all look like a bunch of idiots dragging these dead Americans through the news. You teabag#ers look like the whining little pussies who don’t understand anything about the dangers of the world or how the military operates. Too low IQ from too much television.

      • You may as well just admit it. You’re a teensy weensy upset and scared of Allen West. lol

      • I think he is hilarious. His constant whining and sniping from the sidelines. He is SO pathetic. A disgraced Army Officer and one and done Congressman. Yeah, so scared…..ROFL

      • 3 guys trying ot sell books on Fox….wow……very impressive. That people don’t react IMMEDIATELY and are delayed is not uncommon in combat operations. The action at the Embassy could have easily been a decoy and i’m sure that the CIA didn’t want to run over there and find nothing going on while thier own position was overrun. And none of this has ANYTHING to do with anybody in the administration. The notion that the POTUS or SOS would be involved in theses decsions or try to control it is absurd. Fog of 3 guys rushing into a crowd of unknown attackers and they would have all survived? un huh….what a pipe dream. No news here.

  5. Al, SPMAGTF-CR is a new entity in response to the previous Benghazi debacle. While before 9-11 we kept a MEU in the MED, since then the lack of amphib shipping and op tempo for OIF and OEF left the MED uncovered. Good to see this element work.
    SF
    CLiffee

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