Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Benghazi Awakening

I think the press (both the press ignoring this issue and the press that is fanning the flames) and the Congress are not looking at all the key issues and are instead focused too narrowly on the events and what could have or should have happened and on the talking points and the partisan aspect of this.  My previous thoughts on this from Novermber 4th are at this link and I think many of them are still valid today: http://maxoki161.blogspot.com/2012/11/my-thoughts-on-benghazi.html

This is a where you stand depends on where you sit issue.  As I listen to various people retell the events I would guess that they are providing an accurate account of what they know happened where they were and what they think happened elsewhere.  But there are a lot of blind men with their hands feeling the elephant.  

But in my opinion there are four major issues to be examined in detail and unfortunately the actual events of that night and the responses are the sole focus.  What happened that night is a there but for the grace…. Anyone who has been involved in crisis action decision making with multiple HQ and authorities and services and agencies across time zones and continents knows full well how screwed up the operation can become.  

The first issue goes back years and that is how AFRICOM  was organized and resourced and our procedures for crisis action response to attacks on American interests (in Africa and around the world).  There "sharing" of resources among two Combatant Commanders is an obvious violation of the principle of unity of command.  We have dropped the ball here going back to the Bush Administration. 

The second issue is the AQ decline or analysis saying it is weakening from the administration.  Did this "narrative" contribute to poor prior decisions, failure to recognize the intell and take appropriate defense measures.  I think the decisions of the entire summer of 2012 need to be thoroughly examined and a determination made regarding whether the AQ decline analysis was genuine (but wrong) or was a result of a desire to have such a narrative support certain policies.  Did this analysis contribute to the poor decisions throughout the summer of 2012?  Was the analysis objective but wrong or was the analysis tainted and still wrong?

The third issue is our strategic decision making paralysis that is a result of our very effective capture/kill operations to include the drone program where we have the initiative and the greatest possible situational awareness in order to support decision making.  The events of that night in Egypt, Tunis, the Sudan, Tripoli, and Benghazi paralyzed our decision making ability as we tried to figure what was happening and what might happen.  I say this because I think our most significant action that night was to put up a drone to see what was going on.   We were trying to gain situational awareness and understanding before we made decisions – thus violating one of the critical rules of Special Operations from LTG Sam Wilson – never forget the man at the end of the line and always first get the forces alerted and moving toward the objective area (because especially in a place like Africa you cannot solve the physics problem of time and distance).  Furthermore the comments from senior military leaders about not knowing the situation and therefore not sending troops in is an indication of our risk averseness due to our expectations of executing successful operations based on near perfect situational awareness.

The last issue is the post event spin.  If the post event spin is determined to have been in support of the weakened AQ threat narrative then that confirms the problems in issue two above and then that is a significant issue.

The events of that night could have gone in many different directions for better or worse.  But the outcome is a result of events, policies, and strategies put in place long before that night.  And as critical as I might be of the Administration and its actions I do not think they deliberately hung our people out to dry during the actual crisis itself (but I do think it is likely that prior mistakes as I have outlined above may have significantly contributed to our  failure of September 12).  But mistakes were made in the heat of action but they were the result of a combination of factors that should be thoroughly examined and then we can let the chips fall where they may in regards to political fallout. More importantly we need to learn and adapt and hopefully next time we can do a better job of anticipating.  But before we call for everyone's head I wish Congress would investigate the entire incident with a critical look at everything leading up to it and not just want happened and the spin that followed from a purely partisan perspective.  Truth and understanding need to come first and then partisanship can follow.
V/R
Dave


The Benghazi Awakening
Hillary Clinton's chief of staff told Greg Hicks not to talk to Congress.

Miracles happen, and even the sleepy Washington press corps seems to have paid some attention to Wednesday's House hearing on the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission last September in Benghazi. What they and the public heard is the beginning of a real accounting for a security failure that killed four Americans.

We say "beginning" because the entire story still isn't clear, in particular the roles played by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama before and after the attack. But the hearing led by House Republicans, amid months of media sneering, gave the civil servants who were on duty that September night a chance to give their side of the story.

Gregory Hicks, the former deputy chief of mission at the embassy in Tripoli, recalled his last conversation with Ambassador Christopher Stevens, who told him, "Greg, we're under attack." Mr. Hicks said he knew then that Islamists were behind the assault. In other words, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice's public claim at the time that an anti-Islam YouTube video spurred the assault was known inside the government to be false when she and White House spokesman Jay Carney said it.

Mr. Hicks said he briefed Mrs. Clinton that night, yet the father of victim Tyrone Woods says she later told him that the YouTube video maker would be "prosecuted and arrested" as if he were responsible for Benghazi. Stranger still, Mr. Hicks says Mrs. Clinton's then chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, ordered him not to give solo interviews about the attack to a visiting Congressional delegation. Aficionados of the Clinton Presidency will recall Ms. Mills as one of Bill Clinton's impeachment lawyers.

After Stevens and an aide were killed at the mission, the militias turned on the CIA annex nearby. On the advice of the military attaché in Tripoli, Mr. Hicks said he asked for U.S. fighter planes to fly over the complex in an attempt to scare the attackers away. Libyans had seen U.S. air power during the NATO military intervention in 2011 and might have fled. But Mr. Hicks was told no planes were available. Early the next morning, two Americans died in a mortar attack on the CIA compound.

The Pentagon says no F-16s were on call that night, but why not? Why weren't contingency plans in place? The State Department's supposedly independent review panel said in December that "there simply was not enough time for armed U.S. military assets to have made a difference." The review blamed lower level officials for the security failure and didn't even bother to interview Mrs. Clinton. Mr. Hicks says he was "effectively demoted" after Benghazi from "deputy chief of mission to desk officer."

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