The former head of U.S. forces in Africa, General Carter Ham, told the Aspen Security Forum that it quickly became clear the assault on the American consulate in Benghazi last year was a terrorist attack and not a spontaneous demonstration.
“It became apparent to all of us quickly that this was not a demonstration, this was a violent attack,” Ham said. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton initially had portrayed the embassy attack as a response to an inflammatory internet video.
Ham said he was in Washington D.C. for a routine meeting on September 11, 2012 with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Martin Dempsey, when an alert came in from commanders in Stuttgart, Germany that a violent assault was underway on the consulate in Benghazi and Ambassador Chris Stevens was missing.
Asked if it was a terrorist attack, Ham said the intelligence left no doubt that it was.
“I don’t know if that was my first reaction, but pretty quickly as we started to gain understanding within the hours after the initiation of the attack, yes.”
While Ham did not address reports he was pushed into retirement after Benghazi, he said a quick response to the attack was not possible — and he defended the decision not to scramble fighter jets.
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