It was risky to send US troops to Benghazi: Panetta



Washington: Pentagon decided against sending US troops to Benghazi during the attack on the US consulate as too little information and intelligence were available and it would have put lives of US troops at risk, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said.

"We quickly responded in terms of deploying forces to the region. We had fast platoons in the region. We had ships that we had deployed off of Libya. We were prepared to respond to any contingency, and certainly had forces in place to do that," Panetta said here on Thursday.

"But the basic principle is that you don't deploy forces into harms' way without knowing what's going on, without having some real time information about what's taking place", Panetta added.

Panetta emphasised that as a result of not having that kind of information, the commander who was on the ground General Ham, General Dempsey (Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff) and I felt very strongly that we could not put forces at risk in that situation.

"On the events in Libya, clearly the American people deserve to understand what happened in Benghazi. As you know, there are reviews under way both here and in the Department of State so we'll better understand what happened. It's not helpful, in my view, to provide partial answers," Dempsey said.

"I can tell you, however, sitting here today that I feel confident that our forces were alert and responsive to what was a very fluid situation," he added.

Meanwhile, in a letter to President Barack Obama, House Speaker John Boehner had urged to explain to the American people the Administration's response to the terrorist attack in Libya and the fact that publicly available information has consistently contradicted Administration accounts describing the cause and nature of the attack.

"It is clear from publicly available information that Ambassador Stevens and our personnel on the ground in Libya had significant concerns about security in Benghazi and around the consulate" he said. "The National Security Council staff receives significant amounts of raw information and intelligence from throughout the government on a daily basis, and significant and urgent items are flagged for senior White House policymakers," he said.

"I also request that you explain how the Administration's policy response has shifted now that it is publicly acknowledging the attack as an act of terrorism and not a result of an escalating protest against an internet video," Boehner said.

He asked when was the last time Obama was briefed by Ambassador Stevens about the evolving security and political situation in Libya. Did he make any direct observations or raise any concerns to you or your staff about the security situation in country?

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence had also announced the hearings into the circumstances including intelligence and security situation surrounding the recent terrorist attack in Benghazi and other Arab Spring countries.

The committee will hold a closed oversight hearing on November 15.

PTI