Benghazi: Attack on CIA Annex showed 'clear military training'
Previously unreleased testimony by defense officials given to congress behind closed doors shows that there were two separate groups of fighters who attacked the diplomatic compound and CIA Annex in Beghazi on September 11,2012.
The group that attacked the Annex were thought to have had considerable military training and was much better organized than the attack on the diplomatic compound, according to testimony given by retired General Carter Ham.
Newly revealed testimony from top military commanders involved in the U.S. response to the Benghazi attacks suggests that the perpetrators of a second, dawn assault on a CIA complex probably were different from those who penetrated the U.S. diplomatic mission the evening before and set it ablaze, killing Ambassador Chris Stevens and another American.
The second attack, which killed two security contractors, showed clear military training, retired Gen. Carter Ham told Congress in closed-door testimony released late Wednesday. It probably was the work of a new team of militants, seizing on reports of violence at the diplomatic mission the night before and hitting the Americans while they were most vulnerable.
The testimony, which The Associated Press was able to read ahead of its release, could clarify for the first time the Sept. 11, 2012, events that have stirred bitter recriminations in the U.S., including Republican-led congressional investigations and campaign-season denunciations of the Obama administration, which made inaccurate statements about the attacks. The testimony underscores a key detail that sometimes has been lost in the debate: that the attacks were two distinct events over two days on two different buildings, perhaps by unrelated groups.
The U.S. government still has not fully characterized the first attack in which, according to Ham and eight other military officers, men who seemed familiar with the lightly protected diplomatic compound breached it and set it on fire, killing Stevens and communications specialist Sean Smith. A disorganized mob of looters then overran the facility.
In testimony to two House panels earlier this year, the officers said that commanders didn't have the information they needed to understand the nature of the attack, that they were unaware of the extent of the U.S. presence in Benghazi at the time and they were convinced erroneously for a time that they were facing a hostage crisis without the ability to move military assets into place that would be of any use.
The testimony reveals how little information the military had on which to base an urgent response.
I don't see where this changes much, except to debunk the administration's contention that captured suspect Abu Khattala was the "mastermind" behind the whole thing. Khattala headed up a tiny militia that controlled one checkpoint in Benghazi and given the sophistication of the second attack, probably wasn't even involved in the Annex operation.
Democrats seized on the testimony, claiming it proved there was no "stand down" order:
On Wednesday night, Democrats immediately seized on the transcripts release, which they say put to bed the notion that the military was ever given a stand down order.
"The release of the transcripts today underscores a number of important points," ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said. "First and foremost, our military did everything it could to save American lives in Benghazi. The military responded appropriately, quickly, to the best of its ability at that time, and no “stand down” order was ever issued. Any suggestions to the contrary are offensive and downright wrong."
He added: "“The transcripts tell a tantalizing story of Americans trying to understand what was happening in Benghazi and save the lives of their countrymen. It was a frantic and difficult effort and unfortunately four brave Americans died. But it was not due to a lack of effort or a government conspiracy, as some continue to claim."
I don't see where it proves anything of the sort. Others have testified differently, which is why we have a special congressional committee in the first place - to get to the bottom of what happened and why our response was so inadequate.