According to CBS news, on the night of the attack a team of American military commandos was sent from Rota, Spain, to an airfield at Sigonella, in Sicily, Italy, putting them at least an hour’s flight away from Benghazi. The team, known as the Commander’s In-extremis Force, was designed specifically for quick reaction to unforeseen emergencies. But U.S. officials say it did not arrive in Sicily until after the attack was over. Even if the team had been ready in time, confusion about what was happening on the ground in Benghazi — and State Department concerns about violating Libyan sovereignty — made a military rescue mission impractical, said officials. 1
Two Navy destroyers already in the Mediterranean were moved off the Libyan coast. A senior military official said that uncertainty about what was happening on the ground in Libya delayed the decision about where to send the Special Operations forces until about 9 p.m. in Washington, or 3 a.m. on Sept. 12, in Libya.
Ultimately, the decision relayed from the military’s Joint Staff in Washington was “to get close but not into Libya,” the official said. The task force then deployed over the next 24 hours to Sigonella, which is about an hour by plane from Benghazi. But by that time the shooting was over and the Americans were eventually evacuated.2
- CBS News – U.S. military poised for rescue in Benghazi http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18563_162-57539738/u.s-military-poised-for-rescue-in-benghazi/ ↩
- New York Times – Panetta Says Risk Impeded Deployment to Benghazi http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/26/world/africa/panetta-tells-of-monitoring-situation-in-benghazi.html ↩