Declassified testimony by top U.S. military officials shows the country's military force was "woefully ill-postured" to respond to the Benghazi terrorist attack, Fox News' Jennifer Griffin said on Special Report Monday.
The 450 pages of newly declassified transcripts detail testimony from secret, closed hearings last year before Congress. They provide fresh insight into the military's decision-making that night from the very commanders who staged the rescue efforts, including the top commander in Africa at the time Gen. Carter Ham.
Among other details, they reveal gaps in the military's positioning of assets around the world.
For example, no attack aircraft were placed on high alert on Sept. 11, and the closest F-16 fighter planes to any of the trouble spots in North Africa were in Aviano, Italy. None were armed, and the closest air refuellers were positioned 10 hours away at a base in Great Britain.
No Defense Department AC-130 gunships were within a 10-hour flight to Libya, according to committee members who heard commanders' testimony over the past 15 months. And the commander's in-extremis force, which included a unit of 23 special operators who are used at the commander's discretion, were training in Croatia that day. They did not make it to a staging base in Sigonella, Italy, for another 19 hours after the attack began, according to committee members.
Rep. Martha Roby (R., Ala.) concluded while no one was ordered not to take action, it was a case of lack of preparation.
"It does not appear that U.S. military forces, units, aircrafts, drones, or specific personnel that could have been readily deployed in the course of the attack in Benghazi were unduly held back, or told to stand down, or refused permission to enter the fight," she said. "Rather, we were so badly postured, they could not have made a difference or we were desperately needed elsewhere."
However, Griffin writes, the commander of AFRICOM's Joint Special Operations Task Force for the Trans Sahara region, Col. George Bristol, admitted to the subcommittee on July 31 of last year that he believed there was an increased threat on Sept. 11 and was not comfortable with the military's force posture in North Africa.
The transcript reads:
REP. ROB WITTMAN: In your professional opinion, based on that, were you somewhat uncomfortable maybe knowing about the threat that that was the posture then that was going to be there within that theater?
BRISTOL: Sir, I — yes, and that wasn't the only country that I was worried about that.