Since most of you guys have never worked in a TOC (Tactical Operations Center), let me fill you in on who gives the orders to 'stand down'.
We have SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) that we follow when an Embassy, a Base, or a Post is being attacked. Part of those procedures do NOT include calling the White House to ask for advice or permission to take action.
The Battle Captain in that TOC makes the initial call to alert the QRF or CIF. Once the immediate chain of command is notified, a Colonel or a General (as in this case) will make the final decision as to ramp up, execute, or stand down. Again, we don't ever call the White House to ask for permission or guidance in these matters. That's why we have Colonels and Generals.
High ranking officers get paid the big bucks to make these type of decisions on the battlefield and I hate to break it to you guys but the President is NOT part of that decision making process. The President and high ranking officials like Hillary, Panetta, and Petraeus are eventually notified of situations like this and updated thereafter. However, it's the Combatant Commander that is responsible for that area who makes the final call to execute mission or 'stand down'. In this case, the AOR (Area of Responsibility) was AFRICOM and the Combatant Commander for AFRICOM was GEN Ham.
21 years US Army