Retiring Marine to Give Long-Awaited Benghazi Testimony

Tuesday, 30 Jul 2013 10:23 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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A former Special Operations commander will spend his last day of active military service Wednesday testifying before a classified House committee about last year's terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya.

Col. George Bristol, who was in charge of a task force operating in northern and western Africa at the time of the attacks, will speak before members of a House Armed Services subcommittee following repeated requests from lawmakers, reports The Hill.

Lawmakers calling for Bristol's testimony believe he can address their concerns that military forces were not ready to respond quickly to the Sept.11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate and nearby CIA building that killed four, including Ambassador Christopher Stephens.

Related: Pressure Builds for House Probe Into Benghazi Attacks

Key Republicans, including Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who chairs a House Oversight subcommittee on National Security, and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have been calling for Bristol to testify for some time. However, the Pentagon said, Bristol was retired and could not testify.

However, the Marine Corps Times reported reported Bristol hadn't yet retired and was on active duty until Thursday.

Marine spokeswoman Maj. Shawn Haney said Bristol had been placed on the retired list on July 1, but he voluntarily agreed to stay on active duty until the end of the month.

Once Graham learned of the change, he again asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to have Bristol testify, writing his "in-depth knowledge of the region" and interactions with U.S. Special Operations Forces made him the ideal person to speak with."

Bristol was in charge of a task force responsible for special operations in 12 countries, along with counterterrorism efforts. But during his change-of-command ceremony in March, he said "an evil" had taken hold in Africa, and it "is on us to stop it."

Republicans claim the Obama administration either downplayed or covered up the attack, since it occurred just two months before the presidential election, and have continued to criticize the military's stance concerning the Libyan outpost.

The retiring Marine Corps colonel is one in a line of military officers to testify concerning the Benghazi attacks. While Democrats accuse Republicans of engaging in a "witch hunt" by continuing to press the investigation, Republican lawmakers say it is important to determine what events surrounded the attacks.

However, even Republicans disagree on how to conduct the ongoing investigation. Some want a special congressional committee that would conduct a single investigation.

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