WASHINGTON (AP) – New Pentagon details show that the first U.S. military unit arrived in Libya more than 14 hours after the attack on the consulate in Benghazi was over, and four Americans, including the ambassador, were dead.
A Defense Department timeline obtained by The Associated Press underscores how far the military response lagged behind the Sept. 11 attack, due largely to the long distances the commando teams had to travel to get to Libya.
The timeline shows that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and his top military adviser were notified of the attack about 50 minutes after it began.
U.S. officials have released details on the response in an effort to refute news reports that said CIA personnel were told to “stand down” rather than go to the consulate’s aid.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is telling Congress that the military did not have armed aircraft near Libya that could have helped defend against the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
In a letter to Republican Sen. John McCain on Friday, Panetta specifically addressed the claim that the military could have dispatched armed unmanned aerial vehicles, AC-130 gunships or fighter jets to thwart the attack.
The Pentagon chief said these aircraft weren’t near Benghazi and they were not an effective option.
Panetta insisted that the U.S. military did everything “they were in position” to do to respond to the attack and spared no effort save the four American lives.
The Associated Press obtained a copy of the letter.