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 »
DISCOVERED BY COMMERCIAL SATELLITES
North Korea Continuing Missile Program At Secret Sites
4 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"North Korea is moving ahead with its ballistic missile program at 16 hidden bases ... identified in new commercial satellite images." The images suggest that North Korea has "offered to dismantle a major launching site — a step it began, then halted — while continuing to make improvements at more than a dozen others that would bolster launches of conventional and nuclear warheads."

Source:
STAFFERS ALREADY INVESTIGATING
Democrats Plan to Probe Payments to Clifford, McDougal
4 hours ago
THE LATEST

"When the Democrats take control of the House in January and gain subpoena power, they plan to probe the president's role in payments to two women who alleged during the 2016 campaign that they had affairs with" the president. "Democratic members on the committee have already begun digging into the president's involvement, according to [an] aide. In September, the committee requested documents from the Trump organization."

Source:
DAMON NELSON HAD WORKED FOR NUNES SINCE 2003
Staff Director for House Intel Committee Passes Away
4 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Damon Nelson, the staff director for the House Intelligence Committee, died unexpectedly after a brief illness, according to a statement from Chairman Devin Nunes. Nelson and Nunes first met in high school, and Nelson worked for the congressmen since his freshmen term 15 years ago. He started "as his legislative director in 2003 before becoming his deputy chief of staff. When Nunes became chairman of the Intelligence Committee in 2015, Nelson went to work for him there, becoming staff director a year later."

Source:
CASE CHALLENGES MUELLER'S AUTHORITY
Appeals Court Asks for Briefings on Acting AG
3 days ago
THE LATEST
LEAVES JEFFRIES AND LEE
Linda Sanchez Won't Run for Caucus Chair
3 days ago
THE LATEST
×
×

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