By Billy Birdzell
Best Defense guest columnist
On April 30, 2013, Fox News aired an interview with a supposed
member of U.S. Special Operations Command who said that members of "C-110," who
were training in Croatia on September 11, 2012, could have both arrived at the
Benghazi consulate in 4-6 hours and arrived before the second attack on the annex
during which Tyronne Woods and Glen Doherty were killed. The mystery man
critiques the Obama administration's decision-making, yet offers no information
as to how C-110 would have influenced the battle in such a way that the outcome
would have been different. Perhaps because it was actually impossible for C-110
to arrive before the attack, and if they did, they would not have been able to
do anything that would have prevented our heroes, Woods and Doherty, from being
"C-110" stands for Charlie Company,
1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group. It is a unique company within the
10th SF Group in that it is trained as a Commander's in-Extremis Force (CIF). Each
of the five active duty SF Groups has a CIF and they respond to important
threats within their geographic area which are below the threshold for, or
availability of, elements from the Joint Special Operations Command (like the
Delta Force). A CIF has approximately 40 operators.
According to the Pentagon timeline posted by CNN, the
enemy attack began at 2142 and all US personnel were out of the consulate by
2330. By 2330, Ambassador Christopher Stevens and the foreign service
information officer, Sean Smith, were dead. President Obama was briefed at 2300
and SOF were approved to launch from Croatia (C-110) and the United States (Delta
Force) at 0239 and 0253 respectively. At 0515, the attack began against the annex.
Doherty and Woods were killed by mortar fire shortly thereafter.
Obama gave the launch order at 0239. The
mystery operator said 4-6 hours. That's 0639-0839. Woods and Doherty died at
0515. An Air Force C-17 was evacuating personnel from the Benghazi airport at
0740. Mystery man and Fox News can't add. Strike one.
For argument's sake, assume Obama
gave the launch order 10 minutes after he met with General Dempsey and
Secretary Panetta at 2300. Four to six hours turns into 0310-0510. Six hours,
however, would have been impossible.
If the Commander of European Command
coordinated with his counterpart in Africa Command as soon as the National
Command Center informed General Dempsey at 2230 and they diverted a C-17 to
Croatia in anticipation, it is still highly unlikely the plane would have been
on the ground in Croatia before midnight; it takes an hour to fly to Croatia
from Germany and a crew would have had to have gotten ready, briefed, examined
contingency plans, and fueled the plane. From Zaton Military Airport in
Croatia, it is over 900 miles to Benghazi, which would have taken approximately
two hours in a C-17 cargo plane. Zaton is on the coast and it more likely the
CIF would have flown out of Udbina Airport, but this is a best case scenario.
Assuming the Air Force was willing to
land a C-17 at the Benghazi airport with an unknown security
situation, once on the ground, the 40-man CIF would have then had to
have moved to the annex which was 30 km away. Moving such a far distance
would have required vehicles. 40 operators can move in 8 HMMWVs, which can fit
into one C-17. However, did they have the vehicles with them? Did they have
everything on the training mission that they needed to go into combat? If not,
it would have taken more time for someone to get everything ready. Maybe the man
of mystery is creative and planned on renting cars from Avis (yes, Avis has a location at the Benghazi
Airport) and using stealth to get to the consulate in a move akin to the French
using taxis to get to the front in order to stop the Kaiser's hordes back in
1914. Mystery man is really a cook who has never been on a deployment. Strike
Even if one of them had Avis First
and the cars were waiting on the runway, the timing would have been iffy.
Parachuting would have been another option. There is a large, open field close
to the U.S. consulate at the southwest intersection of Third Ring Road and Shan
Al-Andulus Road that could have accommodated the CIF. However, one is
defenseless while parachuting, so it is a good idea to insert a good distance
from the action to ensure one is not shot before his boots hit the ground. The
Benghazi Zoo is only 3 miles from the consulate and the combination of trees
and animal cages would have provided good cover, as well as entertainment, in
case someone saw 40 people parachuting into the middle of the city.
Assuming magical planes were waiting
for the CIF and they were somehow able to physically get to the annex before
0515, mystery man failed to mention that Doherty and Woods were killed by
mortar fire. Forty operators armed with rifles and light-machine guns can
neither stop mortar rounds nor determine from where the mortar is being fired. The
only thing the CIF would have done had they gotten to the annex before 0515 is
created more targets and overcrowded the consulate.
Even if the CIF was on ready 5 (fully
armed, sitting in the aircraft with pilots at the controls) in Sigonella (the
closest European base to Benghazi) with advanced warning of an attack but
unsure of the time, and they launched at 2232 on only-in-Hollywood orders from
someone other than the president, they would not have been able to do anything
about Stevens and Smith's deaths, nor stopped the mortar rounds. Strike three.
The person in the interview is a
clown and I am incredibly disappointed in the news for not using Google.
Birdzell served as a U.S. Marine Corps infantry officer and special operations
team leader from 2001 to 2009. He is currently pursuing a master's degree in
security studies at Georgetown University.