Panetta blames lack of intelligence for Benghazi attack



Washington: Arguing that the Pentagon was prepared for a wide range of contingencies, the US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta today blamed the lack of "specific intelligence" for the inability to quickly respond to the terrorist attack at US Consulate in Libya last year.

The September 11 terrorist attack on the Consulate in Libyan capital of Benghazi killed US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

"On that tragic day, as always, the Department of Defence was prepared for a wide range of contingencies? Unfortunately, there was no specific intelligence or indications of an imminent attack on US facilities in Benghazi.

"Frankly without an adequate warning, there was not enough time given the speed of the attack for armed military assets to respond," Panetta told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

In his probably last testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee as the Defence Secretary, Panetta argued that that the US was not dealing with a prolonged or continuous assault, which could have been brought to an end by a US military response.

"Time, distance, the lack of an adequate warning, events that moved very quickly on the ground prevented a more immediate response," he said while responding to a volley of questions from agitated members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"Even if we were able to get the F-16s or the AC-130s over the target in time, the mission still depends on accurate information about what targets they're supposed to hit. And we had no forward air controllers there. We had no communications with US personnel on the ground. And as a matter of fact, we had no idea where the Ambassador was at that point to be able to kind of conduct any kind of attacks on the ground," he argued.

General Martin Dempsey, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff too appeared before the Congressional Committee to testify on the tragic Benghazi attack.

Top Republican Senator John McCain, entered into a heated debate with Dempsey. "I have to admit it's one of the more bizarre statements that I have ever seen in my years in this committee. When you're talking about the Benghazi issue, you say, 'We positioned our forces in a way that was informed by and consistent with available threat estimates.'

"Then you go on to say, 'Our military was appropriately responsive,' even though seven hours passed and two Americans died at the end of that. Then you go on and say, 'We did what our posture and capabilities allowed'," McCain said quoting from the earlier statement of Dempsey.

PTI