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 »
HAD HEADED AGENCY SINCE OCTOBER
DEA Head Steps Down
11 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Acting DEA head Robert Patterson "told staff Monday he is retiring, saying that running the agency as a temporary fill-in had become 'increasingly challenging.'"

DOUBLING DOWN
White House Promises New Immigration Crackdown Before Midterms
11 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Top aides to President Donald Trump are planning additional crackdowns on immigration before the November midterms, despite a growing backlash over the administration’s move to separate migrant children from parents at the border. Senior policy adviser Stephen Miller and a team of officials from the Justice Department, Department of Labor, Department of Homeland Security, and the Office of Management and Budget have been quietly meeting for months to find ways to use executive authority and under-the-radar rule changes to strengthen hardline U.S. immigration policies."

Source:
OFFERED TO SELL DIRT ON CLINTON FOR $2 MILLION
Roger Stone Says He Forgot About Meeting with Russian
15 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Two longtime associates of President Donald Trump are now acknowledging a previously undisclosed contact in May 2016 with a Russian who they say offered dirt on Hillary Clinton. Roger Stone and Michael Caputo say they forgot to tell investigators about their contact with a Russian national who goes by the name Henry Greenberg — even though they say Greenberg offered to sell incriminating information to the Trump campaign for $2 million."

Source:
MCCONNELL WANTS A TREATY
Senators Want to Rubber Stamp Any North Korean Deal
6 days ago
THE LATEST

"As Trump signed a joint statement with Kim Jong Un that offered few details on how the North Korean leader would make good on his vow to denuclearize, Republicans on Capitol Hill said Tuesday that they want and expect the White House to submit any final agreement for their approval." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called for any agreement to be in the form of a treaty.

Source:
UNLESS NEGOTIATIONS GO BADLY
Trump To Halt “War Games” On Korean Peninsula
6 days ago
THE LATEST

President Trump announced that the United States will suspend "war games" with South Korea, which are "inappropriate" given his meeting with North Korean leader Kim-Jong Un. "We will be stopping the war games which will save us a tremendous amount of money," said Trump, "unless and until we see the future negotiation is not going along like it should." The military exercises "carried out each year by the US and South Korean militaries have been consistently cited by Pyongyang as a US rehearsal for war, and a reason it needs to build a nuclear arsenal."

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