Exclusive: Rep. Westmoreland Says Marines’ Benghazi Rescue Platoon Was Kept on Tarmac for Six Hours

Capitol Hill

A platoon of US Marines assigned to the Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team at Rota, Spain, was held on the base’s airstrip for six hours as administration officials debated whether to send them to Benghazi in uniform or in civilian clothes, one of the Republicans serving on the House Select Committee on Benghazi told Breitbart News Tuesday.

“The FAST team was sitting on the tarmac with no lift [aircraft]” to Benghazi, said Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R.-Ga.). “While they’re there, people are getting them to change clothes. You know? Civilian clothes, then back to military clothes, then back to military clothes, back to civilian–which indicates to me that there was evidently a fight or a disagreement between the DoD and the State Department.”

The congressman spoke to Breitbart News as he was leaving the press conference where the House Select Committee on Benghazi had released its House Select Committee on Benghazi.

Armed militiamen linked to Al Qaeda attacked American personnel and facilities at Benghazi, Libya Sept. 11, 2012. The attacks killed four Americans, including the ambassador. The Marines finally arrived 10 hours after the final attack was repulsed.

The White House and State Department were concerned that Marines in their uniforms would appear to break President Barack Obama’s political boast that he achieved success in Libya without putting “boots on the ground,” according to the select committee’s report.

Another concern was the sensibilities of the Libyan government.

Westmoreland said he was stunned by the Pentagon’s lack of preparedness, especially on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

“We’ve got the best, the greatest and the best trained and equipped military in the world,” he said. “The problem is that we had assets in different places, so to me there was poor planning–yet, even after the demonstration in Cairo, there was no movement of assets.”

The congressman shook his head describing how military personnel and equipment were effectively off-line at the Air Force’s Aviano Air Base because the Air Force scheduled an inspection that day. Virtually all the equipment was broken down and laid out to be counted. “Is September the 11th anytime to do a military exercise and an inspection with all your equipment tore down?” he asked.

The military exercise was Jackal Stone, which was held that year in Croatia. Jackal Stone is an annual training event hosted by Special Operations European Command. The exercise gathers together Army Special Forces, the Green Berets, and partners them with special forces from other European countries.

During the attacks on Benghazi, 15o Green Berets were at the Jackal Stone exercise, less than 900 miles away, and with a flight time of less than three hours. Westmoreland said the Green Berets were not prepared or equipped to respond. “It was a two-week exercise, so they were in the training mode.”

The State Department was also woefully unprepared, despite warnings from department security experts, he said. “Look at the contractors and the diplomatic security people,” the congressman said. “They weren’t ‘green suits,’ but they were the ones saying: ‘Look, we don’t have any defensive fighting positions.”

But the State Department was concerned that fortifying the facilities at Benghazi would displease the Libyan government, he said.

Americans on the ground kept requesting security improvements before the attack, he said. According to Westmoreland, they said;

‘We need more cameras’–more cameras wouldn’t make it look like a military compound. ‘We need more lights because there is an orchard there that is an excellent place for people to hide as they are waiting to attack you’ –and so, they were asking for cameras, they were asking for a different barricade at the gate, they were asking for lights, they wanted sandbags.

One witness and survivor of the attacks told Westmoreland he really could have used sandbags that night.

“Hopefully, the testimony will come out by the individual to me that is really one of the heroes of this whole deal,” he said. “He didn’t even have sandbags to get behind in a defensive position because the State Department didn’t want the appearance of a military compound.”