“This is not 911. You cannot just simply call and expect within two minutes to have a team in place. It takes time,” Panetta said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“We deployed,” he said. “We knew there were problems there. We moved forces into place where we could deploy them quickly if we had to. They were ready to go.”

However, he added, by the time officials got the information about the raids on the U.S. compound – which killed four Americans, including Stevens – the distance “made it very difficult to respond quickly.”

“That’s just the nature of dealing with the Middle East,” he said.