Two out of eight in Tripoli sent to res­cue, hon­ored for valor

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY ROWAN SCAR­BOR­OUGH

Masked from pub­lic view, two of the U.S. mil­i­tary’s elite spe­cial op­er­a­tions com­man­dos have been awarded medals for brav­ery for a mis­sion that fur­ther un­der­cuts the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s orig­i­nal story about the Beng­hazi tragedy.

For months, ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials have claimed no spe­cial op­er­a­tions forces were dis­patched from out­side Libya to Beng­hazi dur­ing the Sept. 11, 2012, al Qaeda ter­ror­ist at­tacks on the U.S. diplo­matic mis­sion and CIA an­nex be­cause none was within range.

The Pen­tagon, un­der in­tense pub­lic crit­i­cism for not com­ing to the aid of be­sieged Amer­i­cans, pub­lished an of­fi­cial time­line in Novem­ber that care­fully danced around the is­sue.

It said time and dis­tance pre­vented any com­man­dos out­side Libya from reach­ing a CIA com­pound un­der at­tack. The time­line dis­closed that a re­in­force­ment flight 400 miles away in Tripoli con­tained two “DoD per­son­nel” but did not de­scribe who they were. Later, the of­fi­cial State Depart­ment re­port on Beng­hazi said they were “two U.S. mil­i­tary per­son­nel” — but pro­vided no other de­tails. It made no men­tion of spe­cial op­er­a­tions forces.

But sources di­rectly fa­mil­iar with the at­tack tell The Wash­ing­ton Times that a unit of eight spe­cial op­er­a­tors — mostly Delta Force and Green Beret mem­bers — were in Tripoli the night of the at­tack, on a coun­tert­er­ror­ism mis­sion that in­volved cap­tur­ing weapons and wanted ter­ror­ists from the streets and help­ing train Libyan forces.

When word of the Beng­hazi at­tack sur­faced, two mem­bers of that mil­i­tary unit vol­un­teered to be dis­patched along with five pri­vate se­cu­rity con­trac­tors on a hastily ar­ranged flight from Tripoli to res­cue Amer­i­cans in dan­ger, the sources said, speak­ing only on the con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause the spe­cial op­er­a­tions forces’ ex­is­tence in­side Libya was se­cret.

The two spe­cial op­er­a­tions forces ar­rived in time to en­gage in the fi­nal, fe­ro­cious fire­fight be­tween the ter­ror­ists and Amer­i­cans holed up in the CIA an­nex near the ill-fated diplo­matic mis­sion in Beng­hazi, the sources added.

The two spe­cial op­er­a­tors were awarded medals for valor for help­ing re­pel a com­plex at­tack that killed Am­bas­sador J. Christo­pher Stephens, another Amer­i­can diplo­mat and two for­mer Navy SEALs, but spared many more po­ten­tial ca­su­al­ties.

“Yes, we had spe­cial forces in Tripoli, and two in fact did vol­un­teer and en­gaged hero­ically in the ef­forts to save Amer­i­cans,” one source told The Times. “The oth­ers were asked to stay be­hind to help pro­tect Tripoli in case there was a co­or­di­nated at­tack on our main em­bassy.

“The re­main­ing [spe­cial op­er­a­tions forces] were ready to dis­patch the next morn­ing, but by that time Amer­i­can per­son­nel had been evacuated to the air­port, lo­cal mili­tias had pro­vided ad­di­tional se­cu­rity and it was de­ter­mined there was no need for them to be dis­patched at that point,” the source added.

Pressed why the Pen­tagon and ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials did not pub­licly ac­knowl­edge the spe­cial op­er­a­tions forces’ con­tri­bu­tion that tragic night, the sources said of­fi­cials de­cided that their anti-ter­ror work in­side Libya was sen­si­tive and closely guarded. In ad­di­tion, U.S. of­fi­cials did not have a Sta­tus of Forces Agree­ment in place that would have au­tho­rized the troops’ pres­ence, the sources said.

The his­tory of the Beng­hazi at­tack is in­fa­mous in part for what the White House and Pen­tagon did not do: no war­planes and no res­cue troops from out­side Libya.

The rev­e­la­tion that some spe­cial op­er­a­tions forces did make it to Beng­hazi the night of the at­tack is the lat­est to un­der­mine a care­fully crafted story line put out by the pres­i­dent and his aides in the weeks lead­ing into the 2012 elec­tion. The ad­min­is­tra­tion has since ac­knowl­edged that parts of that story line were mis­lead­ing.

“On the one hand, it is an in­dict­ment of the lack of con­tin­gency plan­ning by both CIA and DoD, es­pe­cially given the ris­ing threat pro­files in Libya that were well un­der­stood — and ap­pro­pri­ately re­ported back to D.C. by agency reps on the ground,” said re­tired Army Col. Ken Allard. “So why weren’t there more than just two Delta Force guys to send? Above all: Where were the air and naval re­sources that should have

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