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Officers counter GOP claims over Benghazi

Testimony says orders to stay put were right call

WASHINGTON — The testimony of nine military officers undermines contentions by Republican lawmakers that a ‘‘stand-down order’’ held back military assets that could have saved the US ambassador and three other Americans killed at a diplomatic outpost and CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya.

The ‘‘stand-down’’ theory centers on a Special Operations team of four — a detachment leader, a medic, a communications expert, and a weapons operator with his foot in a cast — who were stopped from flying from Tripoli to Benghazi after the attacks of Sept. 11-12, 2012, had ended. Instead, they were instructed to help protect and care for those being evacuated from Benghazi and from the US Embassy in Tripoli.

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The senior military officer who issued the instruction to ‘‘remain in place’’ and the detachment leader who received it said it was the right decision and has been widely mischaracterized. The order was to remain in Tripoli and protect some three dozen embassy personnel rather than fly to Benghazi some 600 miles away after all Americans there would have been evacuated. And the medic is credited with saving the life of an evacuee from the attacks.

Transcripts of hours of closed-door interviews with the military leaders by the House Armed Services and Oversight and Government Reform committees were made public for the first time Wednesday. The Associated Press had reviewed the material ahead of its release.

Representative Darrell Issa, a California Republican and chairman of the Oversight panel, has suggested Hillary Rodham Clinton gave the order, though as secretary of state at the time, she was not in the military chain of command.

Despite lingering public confusion about many events that night, the testimony shows military leaders largely in agreement about how they responded to the attacks.

The initial Sept. 11 assault on the diplomatic post killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and another American. Though not under any known further threat, the US Embassy in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, was evacuated early Sept. 12.

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