JERUSALEM – In a bombshell admission that has until now gone unreported, Martin Dempsey, chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, conceded that highly trained Special Forces were stationed just a few hours away from Benghazi on the night of the attacks but were not told to deploy to Libya.
In comments that may warrant further investigation, Dempsey stated at a Senate hearing Wednesday that on the night of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack, command of the Special Forces – known as C-110, or the EUCOM CIF – was transferred from the military’s European command to AFRICOM, or the United States Africa Command.
Dempsey did not state any reason for the strange transfer of command nor could he provide a timeline for the transfer the night of the attack.
Also, Dempsey’s comments on the travel time between Croatia and Benghazi were incorrect.
His remarks for the first time confirm an exclusive Fox News interview aired April 30 in which a special government operator, speaking on condition of anonymity, contradicted claims by the Obama administration and a State Department review that there wasn’t enough time for military forces to deploy the night of the attack.
“I know for a fact that C-110, the EUCOM CIF, was doing a training exercise in … not in the region of North Africa, but in Europe,” the special operator told Fox News’ Adam Housley. “And they had the ability to act and to respond.”
The operator told Fox News the C-110 forces were training in Croatia. The distance between Croatia’s capital, Zagreb, and Benghazi is about 925 miles. Fox News reported the forces were stationed just three and a half hours away.
“We had the ability to load out, get on birds and fly there, at a minimum stage,” the operator told Fox News. “C-110 had the ability to be there, in my opinion, in a matter of about four hours … four to six hours.”
The C-110 is a 40-man Special Ops force maintained for rapid response to emergencies – in other words they are trained for deployment for events like the Benghazi attack.
Dempsey was asked about Housley’s report by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis, at a senatorial hearing Wednesday over Defense Department Budget requests.
Dempsey confirmed the C-110 was indeed at a training exercise. At first he claimed the Special Forces were training in Bosnia and then later stated they were training in Croatia. But he did not explain the discrepancies in his statements about their location nor did he note the discrepancies.
“It (the C-110) was on a training mission in Bosnia, that is correct,” stated Dempsey.
Dempsey had been asked whether they were training in Croatia, not Bosnia.
In further remarks, he stated the forces were in Croatia.
Dempsey was asked whether he agreed with the Fox News timeline that the C-100 could deploy in four to six hours.
“No, I would not agree to that timeline,” he stated. “The travel time alone would have been more than that, and that is if they were sitting on the tarmac.”
Dempsey’s remarks are inaccurate. Even a large passenger jet can travel from the furthest point of Croatia to Benghazi in about two and a half hours or less.
Dempsey further stated the command of the C-100, or the EUCOM CIF, was transferred the night of the attack, but he didn’t explain why.
“There was a point at which the CIF was transitioned over into Africom” from European command, he said.
He could not give a timeline of when the command was transferred, telling Johnson he would take the question for the record.
Asked whether the C-100 left Croatia that night, Dempsey stated, “They were told to begin preparations to leave Croatia and to return to their normal operating base” in Germany.
Dempsey’s statements confirmed the forces were not asked to deploy to Libya.
The whistleblower operator told Fox News the C-100 could have made a difference.
“They would have been there before the second attack,” he said. “They would have been there at a minimum to provide a quick reaction force that could facilitate their exfil out of the problem situation. Nobody knew how it was going to develop. And you hear a whole bunch of people and a whole bunch of advisers say hey, we wouldn’t have sent them there because, you know, the security was unknown situation.”
Also, in his testimony, former deputy Libyan ambassador and whistleblower Gregory Hicks said he contacted Africom the night of the attack but received no support.
Stated Hicks: “At about 10:45 or 11 we confer, and I asked the defense attache who had been talking about AFRICOM and with the joint staff, ‘Is anything coming? Will they be sending us any help? Is there something out there?’ And he answered that, the nearest help was in Aviano, the nearest – where there were fighter planes. He said that it would take two to three hours for them to get onsite, but that there also were no tankers available for them to refuel. And I said, ‘Thank you very much,’ and we went on with our work.”
Aviano, Italy, is 1,044 miles from Benghazi, about 100 miles further than the Croatian capital.