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CIA operators were denied request for help during Benghazi attack

CIA operators were denied request for help during Benghazi attack, sources say

By Jennifer Griffin


Fox News has learned from sources who were on the ground in Benghazi that an urgent request from the CIA annex for military back-up during the attack on the U.S. consulate and subsequent attack several hours later was denied by U.S. officials — who also told the CIA operators twice to “stand down” rather than help the ambassador’s team when shots were heard at approximately 9:40 p.m. in Benghazi on Sept. 11.

Former Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods was part of a small team who was at the CIA annex about a mile from the U.S. consulate where Ambassador Chris Stevens and his team came under attack. When he and others heard the shots fired, they informed their higher-ups at the annex to tell them what they were hearing and requested permission to go to the consulate and help out. They were told to “stand down,” according to sources familiar with the exchange. Soon after, they were again told to “stand down.”

Woods and at least two others ignored those orders and made their way to the consulate which at that point was on fire. Shots were exchanged. The rescue team from the CIA annex evacuated those who remained at the consulate and Sean Smith, who had been killed in the initial attack. They could not find the ambassador and returned to the CIA annex at about midnight.

At that point, they called again for military support and help because they were taking fire at the CIA safe house, or annex. The request was denied. There were no communications problems at the annex, according those present at the compound. The team was in constant radio contact with their headquarters. In fact, at least one member of the team was on the roof of the annex manning a heavy machine gun when mortars were fired at the CIA compound. The security officer had a laser on the target that was firing and repeatedly requested back-up support from a Spectre gunship, which is commonly used by U.S. Special Operations forces to provide support to Special Operations teams on the ground involved in intense firefights. The fighting at the CIA annex went on for more than four hours — enough time for any planes based in Sigonella Air base, just 480 miles away, to arrive. Fox News has also learned that two separate Tier One Special operations forces were told to wait, among them Delta Force operators.

A Special Operations team, or CIF which stands for Commanders in Extremis Force, operating in Central Europe had been moved to Sigonella, Italy, but they were never told to deploy. In fact, a Pentagon official says there were never any requests to deploy assets from outside the country. A second force that specializes in counterterrorism rescues was on hand at Sigonella, according to senior military and intelligence sources. According to those sources, they could have flown to Benghazi in less than two hours. They were the same distance to Benghazi as those that were sent from Tripoli. Spectre gunships are commonly used by the Special Operations community to provide close air support.

According to sources on the ground during the attack, the special operator on the roof of the CIA annex had visual contact and a laser pointing at the Libyan mortar team that was targeting the CIA annex. The operators were calling in coordinates of where the Libyan forces were firing from.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday that there was not a clear enough picture of what was occurring on the ground in Benghazi to send help.

“There’s a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking going on here,” Panetta said Thursday. “But the basic principle here … is that you don’t deploy forces into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on.”

U.S. officials argue that there was a period of several hours when the fighting stopped before the mortars were fired at the annex, leading officials to believe the attack was over.

Fox News has learned that there were two military surveillance drones redirected to Benghazi shortly after the attack on the consulate began. They were already in the vicinity. The second surveillance craft was sent to relieve the first drone, perhaps due to fuel issues. Both were capable of sending real time visuals back to U.S. officials in Washington, D.C. Any U.S. official or agency with the proper clearance, including the White House Situation Room, State Department, CIA, Pentagon and others, could call up that video in real time on their computers.

Tyrone Woods was later joined at the scene by fellow former Navy SEAL Glen Doherty, who was sent in from Tripoli as part of a Global Response Staff or GRS that provides security to CIA case officers and provides countersurveillance and surveillance protection. They were killed by a mortar shell at 4 a.m. Libyan time, nearly seven hours after the attack on the consulate began — a window that represented more than enough time for the U.S. military to send back-up from nearby bases in Europe, according to sources familiar with Special Operations. Four mortars were fired at the annex. The first one struck outside the annex. Three more hit the annex.

A motorcade of dozens of Libyan vehicles, some mounted with 50 caliber machine guns, belonging to the February 17th Brigades, a Libyan militia which is friendly to the U.S., finally showed up at the CIA annex at approximately 3 a.m. An American Quick Reaction Force sent from Tripoli had arrived at the Benghazi airport at 2 a.m. (four hours after the initial attack on the consulate) and was delayed for 45 minutes at the airport because they could not at first get transportation, allegedly due to confusion among Libyan militias who were supposed to escort them to the annex, according to Benghazi sources.

The American special operators, Woods, Doherty and at least two others were part of the Global Response Staff, a CIA element, based at the CIA annex and were protecting CIA operators who were part of a mission to track and repurchase arms in Benghazi that had proliferated in the wake of Muammar Qaddafi’s fall. Part of their mission was to find the more than 20,000 missing MANPADS, or shoulder-held missiles capable of bringing down a commercial aircraft. According to a source on the ground at the time of the attack, the team inside the CIA annex had captured three Libyan attackers and was forced to hand them over to the Libyans. U.S. officials do not know what happened to those three attackers and whether they were released by the Libyan forces.

Fox News has also learned that Stevens was in Benghazi that day to be present at the opening of an English-language school being started by the Libyan farmer who helped save an American pilot who had been shot down by pro-Qaddafi forces during the initial war to overthrow the regime. That farmer saved the life of the American pilot and the ambassador wanted to be present to launch the Libyan rescuer’s new school.

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Panetta Safe After Security Breach Near His Plane…..American Troops Asked to Disarm Before Meeting

Panetta Is Safe After Breach Near His Plane at Afghan Base

By ELISABETH BUMILLER

KABUL, Afghanistan — A tense visit to Afghanistan by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta got off to an unscripted start when a stolen truck sped onto a runway ramp at the British military airfield as his plane was landing. Mr. Panetta was unhurt, but Pentagon officials said the Afghan driver emerged from the vehicle in flames.

No explosives were found on the Afghan national or in the truck, the officials said, and the Pentagon was so far not considering the episode an attack on Mr. Panetta. But it reinforced the lack of security in Afghanistan at the start of his visit, the first by a senior member of the Obama administration since an American soldier reportedly killed 16 Afghan civilians, mostly children and women, in Kandahar Province in southern Afghanistan. The two-day trip, unannounced as usual for security reasons, had been planned months ago, but has taken on a new urgency since the Sunday massacre.

Mr. Panetta, like President Obama, has denounced the killings and vowed to bring the killer to justice, a message he is to deliver in person to President Hamid Karzai and top Afghan defense and interior officials. The killings have further clouded the strained Afghan-American relations.

Mr. Panetta was landing at Camp Bastion, a British air field that adjoins Camp Leatherneck, a vast Marine base in Helmand Province, which abuts Kandahar.

Mr. Panetta and his aides were aware of the incident shortly after it happened, about 11 a.m., but he continued as planned with remarks to Marines and international troops at Camp Leatherneck and then headed as scheduled for a trip to a remote combat outpost, Shukvani, in western Helmand. The episode was not disclosed until nearly 10 hours after it occurred, well after Mr. Panetta had arrived in Kabul from the south.

George Little, the Pentagon press secretary, said the stolen truck never exploded, counter to some early reports.

Mr. Little said Mr. Panetta was never in danger but he could not explain the Afghan’s motive or whether he was a suicide attacker aiming for Mr. Panetta’s plane. Nor could he explain why the Afghan was on fire. “For reasons that are totally unknown to us at this time, our personnel discovered that he was ablaze,” Mr. Little said. “He ran, he jumped on to a truck, base personnel put the fire out and he was immediately treated for burn injuries.”

Mr. Little said an investigation was ongoing and he did not yet have all the facts. “We cannot confirm in any way, shape or form at this time that this stolen vehicle was in any way tied to the secretary’s arrival or his visit,” Mr. Little said.

In a sign of the nervousness surrounding the visit, Marines and other troops among the 200 people gathered in a tent at Camp Leatherneck to hear Mr. Panetta speak were abruptly asked by their commander to get up, place their weapons — M-16 and M-4 automatic rifles and 9-mm pistols — outside the tent and then return unarmed. The commander, Sgt. Maj. Brandon Hall, told reporters he was acting on orders from superiors.

“All I know is, I was told to get the weapons out,” he said. Asked why, he replied, “Somebody got itchy, that’s all I’ve got to say. Somebody got itchy; we just adjust.”

Normally, American forces in Afghanistan keep their weapons with them when the defense secretary visits and speaks to them. The Afghans in the tent were not armed to begin with, as is typical.

Later, American officials said that the top commander in Helmand, Maj. Gen. Mark Gurganus, had decided on Tuesday that no one would be armed while Mr. Panetta spoke to them, but the word did not reach those in charge in the tent until shortly before Mr. Panetta was due to arrive.

General Gurganus told reporters later that he wanted a consistent policy for everyone in the tent. “You’ve got one of the most important people in the world in the room,” he said. He insisted that his decision had nothing to do with the shooting on Sunday. “This is not a big deal,” he said.

In his remarks to the group, Mr. Panetta said, “We will be challenged by our enemies, we will be challenged by ourselves, we will be challenged by the hell of war itself.”

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Mr. Panetta also flew to a remote military base in western Helmand, Combat Outpost Shukvani, where American Marines fight alongside troops from Georgia, the former Soviet republic. The battalion commander of the 750 Georgian troops, Lt. Col. Alex Tugushi, lost both legs in a homemade bomb explosion in December; he is recovering at Bethesda Naval Hospital near Washington, where President Obama has visited him.
Related

Obama Promises Thorough Inquiry Into Afghan Attack (March 14, 2012)
Home Base of Accused Soldier Has Faced Scrutiny (March 14, 2012)
Kyrgyzstan Wants Military Role to End at U.S. Base (March 14, 2012)

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Mr. Panetta read a letter to the Georgians from Colonel Tugushi that said in part: “Unfortunately, I could not complete my service with you. But I am proud of all of you — those who have fallen and those who continue to serve. You are all heroes who will go down in Georgian history.”

Mr. Panetta told the troops in Helmand that the rampage on Sunday would not change the administration’s plans to withdraw 23,000 American troops from the country by the end of the summer and the remaining 68,000 by the end of 2014, although some could remain longer if the Afghans and Americas negotiate a long-term agreement.

Early in the day, a roadside bomb struck a minivan in Helmand at about 1 a.m., destroying the vehicle and killing eight civilians. Until then, American commanders had said that Helmand was relatively quiet after the massacre, unlike Panjwai, the district in Kandahar where the rampage occurred. Militants there attacked a memorial service for the 16 victims on Tuesday when an Afghan government delegation was present, firing machine guns and assault rifles from their motorcycles and killing at least one Afghan soldier; a motorcycle bomb went off Wednesday near where the same delegation was staying in Kandahar city, killing a security officer.

Mr. Panetta told reporters on his plane on Monday that the killings in Panjwai were a horrific part of the decade-old conflict in Afghanistan.

“War is hell,” he said. “These kinds of events and incidents are going to take place, they’ve taken place in any war, they’re terrible events, and this is not the first of those events, and it probably will not be the last.” He added: “But we cannot allow these events to undermine our strategy.”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: March 14, 2012

A news alert and a headline on an earlier version of this article mischaracterized the initial reports of the incident at the base in Afghanistan. The Pentagon officials did not refer to the stolen car igniting; they described a flaming man emerging from the stolen car.

SOURCE

‘Suicide attack bid’ on US Defence Secretary

‘Suicide attack bid’ on US Defence Secretary

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By DAVID WILLETTS, Defence Correspondent

A vehicle got on to the runway and burst into flames as Mr Panetta’s plane landed in Afghanistan this morning.

The suspected attack also hurt a British squaddie but the extent of the injuries are currently unknown.

The drama unfolded just hours ago on the sprawling base — Britain’s main outpost in the warzone.

Defence supremo Mr Panetta flew into Afghanistan today to quell fears after a US soldier went on the rampage killing 16 innocent Afghans.

But as his plane was landing a vehicle appeared on the runway and subsequently caught fire.

Sources at the scene claim it was a suicide attack — but those allegations have not yet been officially confirmed.

Leon Panetta’s plane was landing at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan
Camp Bastion … Leon Panetta’s plane was landing at British base in Afghanistan

An individual inside the vehicle is receiving medical care for burns, sources say.

The camp went into immediate lockdown and an investigation has been launched.

An Afghani is believed to have made the deliberate attempt on Mr Panetta after he broke through defences and drove a vehicle towards his aircraft.

He then went past the perimeter surrounded by armed security and large concrete block guards.

Disaster was only averted when the truck caught fire and crashed into a ditch on the runway close to where Mr Panetta’s jet had landed or was set to land.

First reports suggest there was no explosives device inside the vehicle.

But it is thought the car was heading towards a welcoming committee for Mr Panetta.

However it then burst into flames — possibly after being shot at — and the alleged perpetrator was arrested by security teams.

An ISAF spokesperson said: “We are aware of an incident today at Camp Bastion where a vehicle caught on fire. The driver of the vehicle is being medically treated.

“We are currently investigating to determine more facts of this incident.

“At no point was anyone on the aircraft at danger from this incident.”

The visit was unannounced and shrouded in secrecy until he safely touched down.
SOURCE

Consequences of Iran Military Strike Will Reverberate Around The World

Panetta Warns Israel on Consequences of Iran Military Strike

By Jennifer Griffin

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said ahead of a meeting Friday with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak that he would warn his Israeli counterpart about the global economic consequences of a military strike on Iran’s nuclear program, adding that he still favors sanctions and diplomacy over a strike.

“To go beyond (sanctions and diplomacy) raises our concerns about the unintended consequences that could result. … There are going to be economic consequences to that, that could impact not just on our economy but the world economy,” Panetta told those travelling with him to Halifax, Canada.

Some Republican lawmakers are complaining the Obama administration is sending a schizophrenic message to Iran and the region. On one hand, it is projecting that the Pentagon now has 30,000-pound bunker-buster bombs capable of striking an underground WMD program and selling smaller bunker busters to Iran’s neighbors such as the United Arab Emirates.

Yet officials are warning about the dire implications of a military strike.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, however, said Friday that the military option is not off the table. “I don’t choose to talk about our discussions with our Israeli partners, but I will tell you we are on a dual- track approach, economic and diplomatic, with never taking the military option off the table. And I think that’s the right place to be,” he said, when asked what the message to Israel would be regarding a potential military strike on Iran’s nuclear program.

Republican Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois is sponsoring legislation, which was introduced Friday, to sanction Iran’s Central Bank, but says he is frustrated that the U.S. Treasury is not pushing harder to tighten sanctions against Iran’s Central Bank.

“I’m worried that the Obama administration policy on Iran is one becoming aggressive weakness,”
Kirk said. “They are not taking any real action against the Central Bank of Iran or other parts of the nuclear program of the Islamic Republic of Iran and then telling everyone else that they shouldn’t do anything either.”

Adam Szubin, director of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, said at a House hearing Tuesday that the Central Bank sanctions could actually benefit Iran while hurting the U.S. and global economies by causing oil prices to spike.

“If there is a hike in the price of oil, Iran gains. If there is a spike in the price of oil … there could be profound harm to the global economic recovery and a windfall to Iran,” he said.

A Treasury source said Friday that the department is “eager” to work with Congress on new ways to pressure Iran, “but it is critically important that the steps we take do not destabilize the U.S. and global economy while potentially benefiting Iran.”

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he thinks both the U.S. and Israel are torn over how to approach Iran.

“I think the Israeli government is divided in some respects like our own over the right approach to take,
” Gates said, in an exclusive interview set to air Saturday on Fox Business Network’s “Tom Sullivan Show. “The former heard of Mossad has been out saying what a terrible mistake a military strike would be. Others cite the existential threat … a nuclear-armed Iran poses for Israel. So I think there are both sides of the issue.”

Gates said he thinks “we have a little more time” to “squeeze the regime.”

Meanwhile, the White House welcomed a resolution from the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors Friday chastising Iran for its continued alleged efforts to obtain a nuclear weapon. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said it will increase pressure on Iran to abandon its drive for a nuclear bomb — but did not specify how it would do so.

Kirk said the White House won’t take action against Iran next year because of fears that the oil markets could be disrupted. About 40 percent of the world’s oil goes through the Strait of Hormuz next to Iran.

The administration is “afraid of any instability and oil markets, and therefore wants to take no decisive action,” Kirk said. “They’ll give some pretty good speeches against Iran, but they will not take decisive economic action. That may be because they don’t want disruption in Western economies, worried about prospects for the campaign.”


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