Why U.S. Ambassador Christopher 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, two government officials told McClatchy.
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.
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.
"He didn't say why. He just turned it down," a defense official who asked not to be identified told McClatchy.
The offers of aid and Stevens' rejection of them have not been revealed in either the State Department's Accountability Review Board investigation of the Benghazi events or during any of the congressional hearings and reports that have been issued into what took place there.
Stevens' deputy, Gregory Hicks, who might be expected to be aware of the ambassador's exchange with military leaders, was not asked about the offer of additional assistance during his appearance before a House of Representatives committee last week, and testimony has not been sought from Ham, who is now retired.