United States military officials have denied claims that head of U.S. Africa Command Gen. Carter Ham may have been fired due to an intent to disobey defense secretary Leon Panetta while the Sept. 11 attacks in Benghazi were underway.
Over the weekend, a source inside the Pentagon informed Washington Times reporter James Robbins that Gen. Ham wanted to send special forces units to help Americans under siege in Libya despite orders from Defense Secretary Panetta to “stand down.”
At an Oct. 18 press conference, Panetta announced Gen. David Rodriguez was succeeding Ham as commander of U.S. Africa Command, where Ham has served since last year.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey issued a statement Monday that said rumors Ham was departing over the Libya attack were “absolutely false.”
“General Ham's departure is part of routine succession planning that has been on going since July,” Dempsey said. “He continues to serve in AFRICOM with my complete confidence."
Panetta said last week that he, Dempsey and Ham all agreed that the intelligence situation was too unclear to send U.S. forces into Libya during the attack that left U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead.
“The basic principle is that you don't deploy forces into harm's way without knowing what's going on, without having some real-time information about what's taking place,” Panetta said.
“As a result of not having that kind of information, the commander who was on the ground in that area, General Ham, General Dempsey and I felt very strongly that we could not put forces at risk in that situation,” he continued.
Panetta’s spokesman George Little also tweeted Monday: “Let me be clear to those spreading rumors: Gen. Carter Ham of AFRICOM has NOT been replaced. He's an excellent leader, doing fantastic job.”