As the weakly protected U.S. diplomatic compound in eastern Libya came under attack the night of Sept. 11, 2012, the deputy head of the embassy in Tripoli 600 miles away sought in vain to get the Pentagon to scramble fighter jets over Benghazi in a show of force that he said might have averted a second attack on a nearby CIA complex.
Hours later, according to excerpts of the account by the U.S. diplomat, Gregory Hicks, American officials in the Libyan capital sought permission to deploy four U.S. Special Operations troops to Benghazi aboard a Libyan military aircraft early the next morning. The troops were told to stand down.
Defense Department officials have said they had no units that could have responded in time to counter the attack in Benghazi, but Republicans on Capitol Hill have questioned whether the Obama administration could have saved lives with a nimbler, more assertive response. They say that the reluctance to send the Special Operations troops may have, at the very least, deprived wounded Americans in Benghazi of first aid.