The commander of Africa Command at the time of the Benghazi attack said in a classified hearing that the White House did not consult him about security in Africa during the run-up to the Sept. 11 anniversary in 2012, according to a statement released by a House subcommittee.
The White House said it's not surprising that then-Army Gen. Carter Ham and his staff were not included in the anniversary preparations led by John Brennan, the president's counterterrorism adviser at the time. "Mr. Brennan ran a process that included the Office of the Secretary of Defense and Joint Chiefs, as well as the other relevant representatives of the interagency, ahead of September 11. It’s typical that COCOMs would not participate directly in those meetings, since they’re represented by JCS," said spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden by email.
Recently retired Gen. Carter Ham headed Africa Command during the Benghazi attack (Credit: DoD).
Also during the June 26 hearing, the lieutenant colonel in charge of security at the embassy in Tripoli reportedly said he and a special forces team could not have gotten to Benghazi in time to make a difference. Lt. Col. S.E. Gibson said he was directed to stay in Tripoli to defend against a possible attack there, according to the subcommittee.
Readout of House Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Classified Briefing on Benghazi
WASHINGTON--Today, the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations received testimony in a classified briefing from three key figures involved in the response to the attack on Americans in Benghazi. General Carter Ham (ret), former Commander, AFRICOM; Lieutenant Colonel S.E. Gibson, former commander of the site security team at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli; and Rear Admiral Brian Losey, former commander, Special Operations Command Africa, all offered accounts of U.S. force posture and planning ahead of the attack, and actions taken during and after the attack. While the subcommittee will continue to carry out appropriate oversight, today’s witnesses did clarify several matters with respect to the events of September 11 and 12, 2012.
Pre-9/11 Force Posture and Planning: On September 10, 2012 the White House issued a readout of a presidential briefing on 9/11 planning. The readout said the briefing was the culmination of “numerous meetings to review security measures in place” chaired by John Brennan. The readout also reported that the briefing included “steps taken to protect U.S. persons and facilities abroad, as well as force protection.”
When questioned about this process today, General Ham, the combatant commander responsible for one of the most volatile threat environments in the world, stated that neither he or anyone working for him was consulted as part of the Brennan 9/11 planning process.
Response to the Benghazi Attack: In his testimony, LTC Gibson clarified his responsibilities and actions during the attack. Contrary to news reports, Gibson was not ordered to “stand down” by higher command authorities in response to his understandable desire to lead a group of three other Special Forces soldiers to Benghazi. Rather, he was ordered to remain in Tripoli to defend Americans there in anticipation of possible additional attacks, and to assist the survivors as they returned from Benghazi. Gibson acknowledged that had he deployed to Benghazi he would have left Americans in Tripoli undefended. He also stated that in hindsight, he would not have been able to get to Benghazi in time to make a difference, and as it turned out his medic was needed to provide urgent assistance to survivors once they arrived in Tripoli.