So, how long does it take to get military assets stationed mere hours away from a firefight to a firefight? Apparently, it takes some 22 hours. When former Navy SEALs called for backup at the consulate in Benghazi on September 11, American assets were stationed both in Libya and in Italy. The help never came; both Navy SEALs were killed after a seven-hour ordeal.
Fifteen hours after that, the military finally showed up. According to the Associated Press:
New Pentagon details show that the first U.S. military unit arrived in Libya more than 15 hours after the attack on the consulate in Benghazi was over, and four Americans, including the ambassador, were dead.
A Defense Department timeline obtained by The Associated Press underscores how far the military response lagged behind the Sept. 11 attack, due largely to the long distances the commando teams had to travel to get to Libya.
As the AP also reports:
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.
Perhaps it’s time for Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to start preparing his resignation letter.