Langley, Pentagon Could Not Have Helped in Benghazi, Expert Says

The attack did not last long enough for Washington to send help.

In this Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012 file photo, a man looks at documents at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, after an attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. The graffiti reads, "no God but God," " God is great," and "Muhammad is the Prophet."
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"It wouldn't have been, 'Don't go help,'" he says. "It very likely would have been, 'Hold tight, we need to figure out what's going on.'"

[READ: Who Has the FBI Sent to Lebanon?]

After the rescue group retreated from the consulate to the CIA annex, a security officer on the roof pointed a laser indicator at a rebel mortar team that was shelling the building, a CIA source told Fox News. These mortar rounds eventually killed former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.

A Spectre gunship could have used the operator's targeting to take out the mortar team, employing a common tactic with special operations troops, the source says, if the Pentagon or CIA had chosed to deploy it.

But this engagement at the CIA annex would have been far within "danger close" parameters, Webb says, referencing the zone within 600 meters of friendly troops into which only the most experienced air combat controllers can direct aerial strikes. Given the description of the attack, the mortar team must have been within a few hundred feet, he says, and among many noncombatants.

He also dismisses any claims that balking at support was a political maneuver due to the upcoming presidential election.

"Anyone in the chain of command would have had no issue stomping out this fire, and getting those Americans out of Libya," he says.

Sources familiar with embassy security tell U.S. News the Benghazi compound was not a protected diplomatic mission like most U.S. installations worldwide. It did not, for example, have the roof hatch that could have allowed Stevens and the other Americans to escape. These have been standard issue on all diplomatic compounds since a group of militants stormed the U.S. Embassy in Iran in 1979.

[READ: Source: Attack Like Benghazi Will Happen Again]

Learn more about the current state of embassy security here.

Ahead of the State Department conclusions, Webb says both communications and security could have been better.

"That's always been an issue," he says.

The State Department declined to comment, pending the independent board investigation findings.

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  • Paul D. Shinkman is a national security reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at pshinkman@usnews.com.