Operations

Special operations commander briefs Armed Services panel on Benghazi

A special operations commander who played a role the night
of last year’s attack in Benghazi told a congressional panel Wednesday
that no “stand down” order was given to forces on the ground in Libya.

Col. George Bristol, who commanded an Africa-based task
force at the time of the terrorist attack, told the House Armed Services Committee that he gave Lt. Col. S.E.
Gibson, who led the site security team in Tripoli, initial freedom of action to
respond to the attack on the U.S. facility in Benghazi.

Bristol corroborated testimony Gibson provided the committee
last month that no “stand down” order was given — contradicting accusations made by critics of the Obama administration’s response to the attack —
according to a description of Wednesday’s classified, members-only briefing of the
Armed Services Oversight and Investigations subcommittee.

Gibson had testified last month that he was told not to send
his team to Benghazi because they needed to remain in Tripoli to defend the
U.S. Embassy there in case of additional attacks.

{mosads}Lawmakers been clamoring for Bristol’s testimony on the assault, in which four Americans were killed, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

The Pentagon had initially said that Bristol could not be
made available to appear before Congress because he had retired at the
beginning of July.

In fact, Bristol’s retirement does not begin until Thursday,
and he testified before the Armed Services panel on his final day in the
military.

Pentagon officials said the mistaken retirement date
was due to an administrative error.

The Armed Services panel said that Bristol was traveling in Africa that night and played only a
small role in the response to the Benghazi attack.

“Unreliable communications prohibited him from participating
in the attack response beyond an initial conversation with LTC Gibson and Rear
Adm. [Brian] Losey,” said the committee’s written description of the briefing.

Committee sources said the briefing with Bristol was
held to get a better sense of the U.S. posture in the region ahead of the
attacks, which occurred on the 11th anniversary of Sept. 11.

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