After Benghazi, Specialized Crisis Response Teams Are Now the ‘New Normal’

In the wake of the Benghazi attack, the Pentagon realized it a needed smaller, more agile footprint in North Africa and the Middle East.

This photo taken on September 11, 2012 shows a vehicle and surrounding buildings smoldering after they were set on fire inside the US mission compound in Benghazi.
National Journal
Ben Watson, Defense One
Add to Briefcase
Ben Watson, Defense One
May 21, 2014, 6:58 a.m.

[Eds. Note: An earli­er ver­sion of this story re­por­ted the Mar­ine Air Ground Task Force based in Spain re­sponds to hot­spots in North Africa and the Middle East. The MAGTF area of re­spons­ib­il­ity does not ex­tend to the Middle East.]

As un­rest spreads in Libya, a team of 250 Mar­ines is on standby in nearby Italy to evac­u­ate Amer­ic­ans at the U.S.em­bassy in Tripoli if ne­ces­sary. These small quick-re­ac­tion forces, based in Mor­on, Spain, can re­spond rap­idly to hot­spots in North Africa. And now, they’re part of what the Pentagon calls the “new nor­mal,” aimed at pre­vent­ing an­oth­er Benghazi-like at­tack.

“One of the things that we learned from Benghazi was the need to have an agile foot­print that you can move quickly to ad­dress just these kinds of is­sues in North Africa,” said Pentagon spokes­man Rear Adm. John Kirby at a brief­ing with re­port­ers Tues­day at the Pentagon. “This is part of what we con­sider the new nor­mal.”

The Mar­ine Air-Ground Task Force, or MAGTF, along with sev­en Os­prey heli­copters and three C-130 planes are wait­ing nearby to swoop in. Kirby called the po­s­i­tion­ing a “pre­cau­tion” that al­lows the U.S.”to be able to be in a pos­ture and in a loc­a­tion that, should they be needed in North Africa, spe­cific­ally Libya.”

“We’re watch­ing the situ­ation very closely and we urge, as, I think, every­body in the U.S. gov­ern­ment has been ur­ging, all parties to take a step back from the vi­ol­ence and work through these is­sues peace­fully,” Kirby said. “It’s cer­tainly un­set­tling. And quite frankly, that’s why we made the de­cision to move those Mar­ines to Si­cily, and they’re ready to go if they’re needed.”

(Re­lated: Why Libya Is So Hard To Gov­ern)

The Mar­ines and air­craft shif­ted to Italy as part of an East Africa Re­sponse Force with­in U.S. Africa Com­mand called the Spe­cial Pur­pose Mar­ine Air Ground Task Force-Crisis Re­sponse unit. It was cre­ated in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2012, at­tack on a U.S. com­pound in Benghazi that killed four Amer­ic­ans, in­clud­ing Am­bas­sad­or Chris Stevens.

In Janu­ary, the unit de­ployed to Juba, South Su­dan, to evac­u­ate 20 U.S. em­bassy staffers. And last May it was in Sigon­ella, Italy, while dip­lo­mats evac­u­ated Tripoli when a car bomb killed 10 people in Benghazi.

The re­cent vi­ol­ence in Libya cen­ters on Khal­ifa Haf­tar, a former gen­er­al who has fielded his own self-de­clared Liby­an Na­tion­al Army in the se­cur­ity va­cu­um left by Muham­mar Gad­dafi’s toppled re­gime. Haf­tar’s men at­tacked Is­lam­ist mi­li­tia bases in Benghazi on Fri­day, killing 75 people Haf­tar viewed as sup­port­ive of Libya’s in­ter­im gov­ern­ment. Mi­li­tia­men countered on Sunday with an at­tack on the par­lia­ment in Tripoli, and on Tues­day, the par­lia­ment was forced to shift its op­er­a­tions to a nearby hotel and pushed up a new par­lia­ment vote as it tries to main­tain some semb­lance of le­git­im­acy.

“They’ve gone through quite a trans­ition over the last sev­er­al years,” said State De­part­ment spokes­wo­man Jen Psaki on Tues­day. “We don’t con­done or sup­port [Haf­tar’s] activ­it­ies, nor have we as­sisted with his ac­tions.”

For now, the U.S. Em­bassy in Tripoli re­mains open, she said.

What We're Following See More »
HAS DELAYED WHILE INVESTIGATION CONTINUES
Mueller Tells Court He’s Ready for Papadopoulos Sentencing
13 minutes ago
THE LATEST
BIG WIN FOR TROLLS
Federal Judge Rules that Trump Can’t Block Twitter Users
51 minutes ago
THE LATEST
AT LEAST $400,000
Ukraine Paid Cohen To Arrange Trump Meeting
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

President Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen was paid at least $400,000 to arrange a meeting between Victor Poroshenko and President Trump, according to sources in Kiev. Shortly after the meeting, which was held at the White House was last June, the Ukrainian "anti-corruption agency stopped its investigation into Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort." Poroshenko was reportedly desperate to meet with Trump, after documents leaked under his watch revealed that President Trump's campaign manager Paul Manafort had failed to disclose his connections with the Ukrainian presidential elections, in violation of U.S. election law.

Source:
ALLEGE PARTISAN GERRYMANDERING
Ohio Democrats File Gerrymandering Suit
2 hours ago
THE LATEST

Ohio Democratic voters have filed suit against Ohio Governor John Kasich and other Republican state officials over alleged partisan gerrymandering in Ohio's electoral map. Despite capturing between 51 and 59 percent of the statewide vote in the past three elections, Republicans hold three-quarters of state congressional seats. "The U.S. Supreme Court is due by the end of June to issue major rulings in two partisan gerrymandering cases from Wisconsin and Maryland that could affect the Ohio suit."

Source:
REMOTE DESERT FACILITY
Iran May Have Restarted Missile Program
3 hours ago
THE LATEST

An Iranian missile scientist, killed in a strike in 2011 along with his research center, oversaw the development of a secret, second facility in the remote Iranian desert that ... is operating to this day," according to a team of California weapons experts. "For weeks, the researchers picked through satellite photos of the facility. They found, they say, that work on the site now appears to focus on advanced rocket engines and rocket fuel, and is often conducted under cover of night."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login