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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Armed forces near Benghazi cited -- TribLive

On Sept. 11, 2012, when the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi was attacked by terrorists, the Navy had dozens of vessels stationed in the surrounding region, according to a map obtained this week by Judicial Watch. 

The map, released last year under a Freedom of Information Act request by a retired Air Force officer, plots Navy assets such as the Laboon, a destroyer about 350 miles from the Libyan city where four Americans, including an envoy, lost their lives. 

House Republicans issued a report on Tuesday that concluded that the military's response to the crisis was “severely degraded because of the location and readiness posture of U.S. forces.” 

But retired Lt. Col. Randall R. Schmidt, who has been probing the military's reaction to the attacks, disagreed with the assessment. 

“Destroyers could have responded to the attack,” Schmidt told Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group. 

In a letter to Schmidt that accompanied the map, Navy Capt. B.C. Nickerson noted the positions of the closest aircraft carrier, the Enterprise, about 3,350 nautical miles away, and the nearest amphibious ship, the Iwo Jima. A nautical mile is equivalent to 1.15 miles. 

The GOP report discusses other military assets. 

The Defense Department “had no armed drones or manned aircraft prepared for combat readily available and nearby,” it stated. 

An unarmed Predator drone was redirected over Benghazi, but was unable to provide “complete and contextualized” information. 

When Air Force Maj. Gen. Darryl Roberson briefed the Senate's Select Committee on Intelligence, he said that sending a plane from the U.S. air base in Aviano, Italy, would have required assembling munitions for the aircraft and then the military would need to “load weapons, get tankers to support it, and get (the fighter) there (to Benghazi). There was no way that we were going to be able to do that.” 

So far, the Defense Department has refused Schmidt's requests for records involving the air fleet on the day of the attacks.
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