By Justin Sink - 10/08/12 11:29 AM EDT
The U.S. Ambassador to Libya who died during a terrorist attack against the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi had requested a security team to remain with him after their deployment was scheduled to end, the commander of that group of special forces plans to testify this week.
Lt. Col. Andy Wood, the former head of a Special Forces "Site Security Team," said in a pair of interviews that the embassy staff, including slain Ambassador Chris Stevens, had wanted his group of 16 special operations soldiers to stay in Libya.
Wood told CBS News that when he found out his team was being removed in August, he felt "like we were being asked to play the piano with two fingers. There was concern amongst the entire embassy staff."
"We felt we needed more, not less," Wood added.
The former security officer said embassy staffers approached him to express concerns about their safety, but said the State Department instructed diplomatic workers "to do with less."
"We tried to illustrate ... to show them how dangerous and how volatile and just unpredictable that whole environment was over there. So to decrease security in the face of that really is ... it's just unbelievable," Wood told CBS.
In a statement to ABC News, the State Department said that there was not a net loss of security personnel on the ground in Libya when Wood's unit was pulled out.
“The SST was enlisted to support the re-opening of Embassy Tripoli, to help ensure we had the security necessary as our diplomatic presence grew. They were based in Tripoli and operated almost exclusively there. When their rotation in Libya ended, Diplomatic Security Special Agents were deployed and maintained a constant level of security capability. So their departure had no impact whatsoever on the total number of fully trained American security personnel in Libya generally, or in Benghazi specifically," said the State Department in the statement.
The State Department also noted that Wood was deployed in Tripoli and said he was unfamiliar with the security situation in Benghazi, where the terrorist attack ultimately occurred.
Wood will testify later this week at a House Oversight Committee hearing investigating the attacks. Panel Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) called the hearing after reports surfaced of other whistleblowers alleging that the State Department rejected requests for additional security.