Is it payback or just shame? General Carter Ham, the combatant commander of Africa Command and a key figure in the Benghazi scandal, is retiring from the Army years short of the mandatory retirement age, according to the Washington Times.
Ham’s name came up in relation to Benghazi last week when Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta was trying to explain why no military backup was sent into the battle at the U.S. mission despite repeated requests from those under siege:
“(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. And as a result of not having that kind of information, the commander who was on the ground in that area, Gen. Ham, Gen. Dempsey and I felt very strongly that we could not put forces at risk in that situation.”
This despite having a live video feed of the events in Benghazi in the situation room, where information from other sources has placed President Obama as well.
With Panetta trying to implicate him, Ham must have had a target on his back since the September 11 attacks. Panetta had announced on October 18 that Ham would be replaced as head of AFRICOM. On Monday, an Army spokesperson insisted the decision to retire was made by Ham and was not fallout from Benghazi.
But as with every other aspect of the Benghazi story, sources within the Administration are telling a different story.
The Washington Times over the weekend reported on an Internet posting, allegedly based on an inside source at the Pentagon, that Ham had wanted to send in troops to rescue the personnel at the U.S. mission in Benghazi, but he was ordered to stand down.
According to the story being circulated, Ham defied his orders and tried to send in his team, but within a minute of giving the order to his troops to rescue the Americans at the U.S. mission, his second in command relieved Ham of duty and arrested him.
So far, there is no corroboration of the story, but it would fit Ham’s sudden departure from AFRICOM and his unexpected retirement.
The Pentagon has denied the story.