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Panetta Explains Military Response on Day of Benghazi Attack

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Defense Secretary Leon Panetta spoke Thursday about the “Monday morning quarterbacking” going on about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and why the U.S. military didn’t act sooner.
 
He said military assets had been moved, but that the attack on the consulate in Benghazi was over before there was enough good information about what had actually happened.  Not knowing exactly what was going on, he and other military leaders feel that “we could not put forces at risk in that situation”
 
For his part Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said there are reviews under way and it wasn’t helpful to provide “partial answers.”  However, he did say he was confident that “our forces were alert and responsive to what was a very fluid situation.”
 
Panetta said the U.S. military had responded quickly by deploying forces to the region.  “We had FAST platoons in the region. We had ships that we had deployed off of Libya. And we were prepared to respond to any contingency. And certainly had forces in place to do that.”
 
But Panetta said 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 he, Dempsey and AFRICOM’s Gen. Carter Ham did not have the information of “who was on the ground in that area” and so they “felt very strongly that we could not put forces at risk in that situation.”
 
Did the drone flying over the Benghazi compound provide an idea of what was going on?  “This happened within a few hours and it was really over before, you know, we had the opportunity to really know what was happening," said Panetta.
 
Panetta and Dempsey both said later that U.S. forces in the area were on a heightened alert because of the 9/11 anniversary, but Dempsey pointed out, “it was 9/11 everywhere in the world.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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