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American Forces Press Service

Secretary, Chairman Respond to Reporters on Benghazi Attack

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 25, 2012 – “You don't deploy forces into harm's way without knowing what's going on,” Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta told reporters here today in response to a question about the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, died during a roughly four-hour attack that began around 10 p.m. local time at the consulate, which attackers set afire, and spread to the nearby annex, defense officials have said.

During a Pentagon news conference, Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, each said the United States had service members in the area prepared to respond to any contingency.

“I feel confident that our forces were alert and responsive to what was a very fluid situation,” the chairman said.

Panetta said that without real-time information about what was happening, he, Dempsey and Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, who leads U.S. Africa Command, all “felt very strongly that we could not put forces at risk in that situation.”

The relatively short duration of the attack, the secretary said, meant “it was really over before … we had the opportunity to really know what was happening.”

The secretary and chairman both said U.S. troops in the area were on heightened alert because of the 9/11 anniversary, but as Dempsey noted, “It was 9/11 everywhere in the world.”

The chairman told reporters both the Defense Department and State Department are studying the attack and surrounding circumstances to better understand what happened.

“Clearly, the American people deserve to understand what happened in Benghazi. [But] it's not helpful, in my view, to provide partial answers,” Dempsey said.

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