Pentagon: Libya rumor 'absolutely false'

The military’s top general issued a statement Monday pushing back against speculation that head of U.S. Africa Command Gen. Carter Ham is leaving his position over the response to the attack in Benghazi last month.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey issued a statement Monday that said rumors Ham was departing over the Libya attack were “absolutely false.”

“General Ham's departure is part of routine succession planning that has been on going since July,” Dempsey said. “He continues to serve in AFRICOM with my complete confidence."

At an Oct. 18 press conference, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced Gen. David Rodriguez was succeeding Ham as commander of U.S. Africa Command, where Ham has served since last year.

Panetta said last week that that he, Dempsey and Ham all agreed that the intelligence situation was too unclear to send U.S. forces into Libya during the attack that left U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead.

“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.

“As a result of not having that kind of information, the commander who was on the ground in that area, General Ham, General Dempsey and I felt very strongly that we could not put forces at risk in that situation,” Panetta said.

Panetta’s spokesman George Little also tweeted Monday: “Let me be clear to those spreading rumors: Gen. Carter Ham of AFRICOM has NOT been replaced. He's an excellent leader, doing fantastic job.”