Senators John McCain of Arizona and Rob Portman of Ohio sent a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Saturday asking for more details about the Benghazi attack, specifically what military forces could respond for a rescue attempt and what dialogue Panetta had with President Obama.
Republicans have worked hard to insert questions of Obama's handling of the Benghazi attack into the presidential campaign. Other Republican senators have sent letters to the president as well as national security and State Department leaders to learn more about what was known before and after the attack.
McCain and Portman's letter focused specifically on the military forces in the region. It has been reported that a special forces unit was on alert in Italy. Questions have also arisen why the U.S. did not send air support to quell the attack that started around 10 p.m. local time.
The letter was sent two days after Panetta explained to the Pentagon press corps why he, Gen. Carter Ham, head of U.S. Africa Command, and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff chose not to send additional military forces to Benghazi.
“(The) basic principle is that you don’t deploy forces into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on; without having some real-time information about what’s taking place,” Panetta said. “And as a result of not having that kind of information, the commander who was on the ground in that area, Gen. Ham, Gen. Dempsey and I felt very strongly that we could not put forces at risk in that situation.”
Below are the specific questions asked in the Oct. 27 letter:
- What military forces were available to provide support to U.S. personnel in Libya?
- What military forces were requested to provide support to U.S. personnel in Libya, by whom, and what forces were provided?
- What communication and coordination did you have with the President and other members of the National Security Council regarding possible Defense Department support in Libya?