David Ignatius: Questions about Benghazi deserve to be answered
What makes this column by Ignatius significant is that he apparently did some independent digging using his vast number of sources cultivated over decades in Washington.
For instance, we learn that there is a Benghazi timeline being created that may be released later this week. No doubt it will be a self serving publication but it will at least give us a starting point to ask more specific questions.
Secondly, there is this about the order to "stand down":
First, on the question of whether Woods and others were made to wait when they asked permission to move out immediately to try to rescue those at the consulate. The answer seems to be yes, but not for very long. There was a brief, initial delay - two people said it was about 20 minutes - before Woods was allowed to leave. One official said Woods and at least one other CIA colleague were "in the car revving the engine," waiting for permission to go. Woods died about six hours later, after he returned to the annex.
The main reason for the delay, several sources said, was that CIA officials were making urgent contact with a Libyan militia, known as the February 17 Brigade, which was the closest thing to an organized security force in Benghazi. The United States depends on local security to protect U.S. diplomatic facilities everywhere, and officials wanted to coordinate any response to the consulate attack. After this delay, Woods and his colleague proceeded to the consulate.
Here's my question: Was it wise to depend on a Libyan militia that clearly wasn't up to the job? Could it have made a difference for those under attack at the consulate if Woods had moved out as soon as he was, in one official's words, "saddled and ready"?
The use of a local militia to battle 150 well armed and trained terrorists was not an optimum military solution, but rather a political decision. Moving American military assets to Benghazi, even from Tripoli where the 8 man CIA team who reached the CIA annex about an hour before the battle was over originated, could have caused Prime Minister Zaidan political headaches. The Libyan government is very shaky and riven with factions that might have torpedoed the PM's government if he were seen as too willing to allow Americans to do the job of Libyans.
Second, why didn't the United States send armed drones or other air assistance to Benghazi immediately? This one is harder to answer. The CIA did dispatch a quick-reaction force that night from Tripoli, with about eight people, but it had trouble at first reaching the compound. One of its members, Glen Doherty, died along with Woods when a mortar hit the roof of the annex about 4 a.m.
A drone eventually showed up hours after the attack began. It's not clear whether the consulate was on fire and Ambassador Stevens already dead when it arrived to send video back to Washington. And the quick reaction force landed in Benghazi at 2 AM but spent a precious hour securing transportation to the CIA annex. Why it took several hours to dispatch the Tripoli force is another question of many that needs to be answered.
Ignatius is the only Washington journalist of which I am aware who is taking the Fox report seriously. We await the publication of the timeline with great interest.