Source: Lisa Myers / NBC News
A small team of Special Forces operatives was ready to fly from Tripoli to Benghazi last year after Libyan insurgents attacked the U.S. mission there, but was told it was not authorized to board the flight by regional military commanders, according to a career State Department official scheduled to testify before Congress on Wednesday.
Gregory Hicks, then deputy chief of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya, told investigators for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that U.S. officials had persuaded the Libyan government to allow the Special Forces operatives to board the rescue flight from Tripoli to Benghazi. But an officer received a phone call telling them to stand down before they left for the airport, according to excerpts of his account made available to NBC News on Monday. That conversation occurred after the U.S. ambassador to Libya and another American had been killed in the initial attack, but hours before a second attack that killed two other Americans.
Hicks quoted a Special Forces commander as telling him, “I have never been so embarrassed in my life, that a State Department officer has bigger balls than somebody in the military,” referring to his willingness to authorize the mission.
The Special Forces soldiers would have been the second group of U.S. government personnel to travel to Benghazi. Earlier, six Americans flew from Tripoli to Benghazi to attempt to aid the embattled personnel at the diplomatic mission.
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