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CAIRO ‚ÄĒ In the month before attackers stormed U.S. facilities in Benghazi and killed four Americans, U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens twice turned down offers of security assistance made by the senior U.S. military official in the region in response to concerns that Stevens had raised in a still secret memorandum, two government officials told McClatchy.
Why Stevens, who died of smoke inhalation in the first of two attacks that took place late Sept. 11 and early Sept. 12, 2012, would turn down the offers remains unclear. The deteriorating security situation in Benghazi had been the subject of a meeting that embassy officials held Aug. 15, where they concluded they could not defend the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi. The next day, the embassy drafted a cable outlining the dire circumstances and saying it would spell out what it needed in a separate cable.
‚ÄúIn light of the uncertain security environment, US Mission Benghazi will submit specific requests to US Embassy Tripoli for additional physical security upgrades and staffing needs by separate cover,‚ÄĚ said the cable, which was first reported by Fox News.
Army Gen. Carter Ham, then the head of the U.S. Africa Command, did not wait for the separate cable, however. Instead, after reading the Aug. 16 cable, Ham phoned Stevens and asked if the embassy needed a special security team from the U.S. military. Stevens told Ham it did not, the officials said.
Weeks later, Stevens traveled to Germany for an already scheduled meeting with Ham at AFRICOM headquarters. During that meeting, Ham again offered additional military assets, and Stevens again said no, the two officials said.
Officials have publicly referred to Ham‚Äôs phone call before. In his Feb. 7 testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the military was aware of the Aug. 16 cable and that someone had turned down Ham‚Äôs offer.
Referring to the cable, Dempsey said: ‚ÄúI was aware of it, because it came in, in Gen. Ham‚Äôs report. Gen. Ham actually called the embassy to, to see if they wanted to extend the special security team there and was said ‚Äď and was told no.‚ÄĚ