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In a staggering yet largely unreported detail about the Benghazi attack, which left four Americans dead, it has been confirmed that four months before the assault, the State Department denied a request for the continued use of an aircraft to move personnel and security equipment.
Such an aircraft could have aided in the evacuation of the victims after the Sept. 11, 2012, attack.
Ultimately, the U.S. Special Mission had to wait for a Libyan C-130 transport cargo aircraft and other planes to be secured to move the victims from Benghazi to Tripoli and then from Tripoli to Western hospitals.
Now the latest report by Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee relates that on May 3, 2012, State Department Undersecretary Patrick Kennedy “terminated Embassy Tripoli’s use of a DC-3 aircraft that provided logistical support to the SST.”
The SST refers to the Security Support Teams, special forces trained for counterattacks on U.S. embassies or threats against diplomatic personnel.
According to The Aviationist magazine, the Dos Wing DC-3 aircraft “provides a wide variety of missions, including reconnaissance and surveillance operations, command and control for counter-narcotics operations, interdiction operations, logistical support, Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC), personnel and cargo movement by airâ¦”
The House report states that “in a meeting with congressional staff shortly after the Benghazi attacks, Lt. Col. (Andrew) Wood called the DC-3 vital to moving sensitive personnel and equipment to and from Benghazi and Tripoli.”
Wood, a former Special Forces member from the Utah National Guard, testified to the House about the Benghazi attack.
The State Department’s Accountability Review Board, or ARB, report into Benghazi doesn’t once mention the cancellation of the DC-3 aircraft.
The ARB report does detail how evacuees, including victims of the attack, waited for several aircraft to be procured to aid in the evacuation of Benghazi following the attacks.
The report notes that staff of the U.S. embassy in Tripoli, including the compound’s nurse, took a chartered jet to help in Benghazi. That jet departed Benghazi with the wounded at 7:30 a.m. local time, or three hours after the final assault on the CIA Annex in Benghazi.
However, numerous other American personnel remained in Benghazi, apparently awaiting other aircraft.
The report states “Embassy Tripoli worked with the Libyan government to have a Libyan Air Force C-130 take the remaining U.S. government personnel from Benghazi.” The cargo jet did not arrive back in Tripoli until 11:30 a.m.
The Defense Department sent two Air Force planes, a C-17 and C-130, from Germany to Tripoli to evacuate the wounded. Those planes arrived in Tripoli at 7:15 p.m. local, according to the ARB.
The detail about the State Department’s cancellation of the DC-3 aircraft for the U.S. missions in Libyan was first reported by CNN in October 2012, citing an internal State Department email.
At the time, CNN quoted Deputy State Department spokesman Mark Toner saying it was common practice to use a DC-3 in locations where no commercial flights were available.
“When commercial service was subsequently established (in Libya), we then moved that asset back to other State Department business,” Toner said.
However, unreported was that the DC-3 was recalled from Benghazi along with another staggering security decision by Department Undersecretary Kennedy.
The House report relates Kennedy in July 2012 rejected the U.S. military’s 16-member Security Support Team, or SST, “despite compelling requests from personnel in Libya that the team be allowed to stay.” It was that SST that required use of the DC-3 aircraft.
Eric Allan Nordstrom, regional security officer at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, told House Republicans that “retaining the SST until other security resources became available was a â primary issue for him,” the House report states,.
The House report did not find credibility in State Department claims that Ambassador Chris Stevens himself rejected the use of the SST.
Gregory Hicks, the No. 2 at the facility under Stevens, “vehemently denied this claim,” according to the House report.
With additional research by Joshua Klein.