More than eight weeks after the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and a week after the CIA released its official timeline of the events that took place, the Pentagon has issued its official timeline.
According to the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey were notified of the first attack at 4:32 p.m., and the two met with President Obama at the White House at 5 p.m. for a regularly scheduled meeting, where they discussed the situation in Libya.
The Associated Press reports that the first military unit arrived in Libya 15 hours after the attack in Benghazi had ended.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and his top military adviser were notified of the attack about 50 minutes after it began and were about to head into a previously scheduled meeting with President Barack Obama. The meeting quickly turned into a discussion of potential responses to the unfolding situation in Benghazi, where militants had surrounded the consulate and set it on fire.
But there have been persistent questions about whether the Pentagon should have moved more rapidly to get troops into Libya or had units closer to the area as the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on America approached. In particular, there was at least a 19-hour gap between the time when Panetta first ordered military units to prepare to deploy – between midnight and 2 a.m. local time in Tripoli – and the time a Marine anti-terrorism team landed in Tripoli, which as just before 9 p.m.
A senior defense official on Friday said forces were at the ready around the globe, but it took time to assess the murky situation, evaluate the threats, put plans in place and get the teams there. With the situation on the ground rapidly evolving, military officials have said there were a number of potential scenarios that had to be evaluated, including concerns that the violence could continue for some time or there could be a hostage situation to which commandos might have to respond.