U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens turned down two offers of extra U.S. Military security assistance made by U.S. Army Gen. Carter Ham, say U.S. government officials.
According to the McClatchy news service, it is not clear why Stevens turned down the offers weeks before the attack on the U. S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya in September 2012.
“In light of the uncertain security environment, U.S. Mission Benghazi will submit specific requests to U.S. Embassy Tripoli for additional physical security upgrades and staffing needs by separate cover,” said a cable drafted by the U.S. embassy on August 16, 2012.
After reading the Aug. 16 cable, Gen. Ham, head of the U.S. Africa Command, called Stevens and asked if the Benghazi consulate needed a special security team from the U.S. military. Stevens told Gen. Ham it did not, according to U.S. government officials.
Weeks later, during a meeting between Stevens and Gen. Ham, there was another offer of U.S. military help, but Stevens turned it down, say government officials.
“He didn’t say why. He just turned it down,” a defense official who asked not to be identified, told McClatchy.
Gen. Ham, now retired, declined to comment on the reported conversation.
“That is odd to me because Stevens requested from the State Department additional security four times, and there was an 18-person special forces security team headed by Lt. Col. Wood that Gen. Ham signed off on that the State Department said no to,” said Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC).
However, in his February 7 testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, U.S. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the military was aware of the Aug. 16 cable and that someone had turned down Gen. Ham’s offer.
“I was aware of it, because it came in, in Gen. Ham’s report. Gen. Ham actually called the embassy to, to see if they wanted to extend the special security team there and was told no,” said Gen. Dempsey at the time.
“We never received a request for support from the State Department, which would have allowed us to put forces on the ground,” Gen. Dempsey added.