We had no special ops strike force for Africa

Rowan Scarborough:
As U.S. Africa Command waited for any order to rescue Americans on Sept. 11 at the besieged consulate and CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya, it was missing a key unit that the Pentagon gives every regional four-star commander — an emergency strike force.

The new command’s lack of such a unit is another piece in the unfolding Benghazi timeline that shows an overriding theme: As radical Islamic extremism swelled in the chaotic coastal city, U.S. security assets in Libya diminished.

From the State Department’s denial of diplomats’ requests for more security in Libya to Obama administration officials repeatedly saying the military-style attack on the consulate resulted from “spontaneous” protests, the events before, during and after the Benghazi assault reflect the political, diplomatic and military confusion that is post-Gadhafi Libya.

Each U.S. geographic combatant command, whether it be in the Middle East, the Pacific or, in this case, Africa, is entitled to a special operations rapid-response team — a group of Green Berets to perform instant combat in situations like the Islamist militants’ attack on the U.S. Consulate.

But on that day, AfriCom, the Pentagon’s newest geographic combatant command, which is still in the building phase, lacked what is called the “commander in-extremis force,” said a senior special operations official.

“All geographic combatant commands have one allocated to them, except AfriCom,” the senior official said. “AfriCom’s is in the process of being established.”

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Utah Republican and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on national security, told Fox News that Army Gen. Carter Ham, who heads AfriCom, received no request from any government entity to intervene in Benghazi during the seven- to eight-hour fight.

As it turns out, some special operations troops, likely from U.S. European Command, were moved to a naval air station at Sigonella, Sicily, but were never ordered to go farther. The Pentagon has declined to say exactly at what hour they arrived in Sicily or whether the battle was over by then.

Perhaps most important is not the lack of troops going into Benghazi, but what security forces the State Department pulled out of Libya a month before the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, his information officer, and two former Navy SEALs.
There is much more in the long piece that also addresses the pre attack history.

I think Gen. Ham probably had the "commander in-extremist" force he needed.  What he lacked was an authorization to use it.  If the European force had not been available one would have been available from the Djibouti base in the Horn of Africa.  What would have been even better was the force that Col. Wood had in Libya until shortly before the attack.  That just adds to the multi level screw up that led to this debacle.


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