U.S. Embassy in Libya Evacuates
Military escorts diplomats out
The U.S. State Department announced on July 26 that it had evacuated its embassy in Libya. American troops and aircraft escorted the diplomatic personnel out of the conflict-ridden North African country and into Tunisia.
The Marine Corps’ specialized crisis response task force helped provide security. Back in May, the Marines sent 200 troops and six planes to Italy for this very purpose.
This force included four MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotors and two KC-130 tanker aircraft. The KC-130s can also transport people and cargo.
But the Americans traveled by truck convoy in this particular instance. The Marines likely flew over and ahead of the vehicles to spot potential ambushes.
Air Force F-16 fighter jets and unspecified intelligence gathering aircraft were also on the scene, according to the Pentagon’s press release. American drones no doubt kept watch over the entire operation.
The flying branch currently has drone missions in neighboring Niger and Chad. However, the aircraft in Chad are reportedly focused on helping Nigeria search for hundreds of schoolgirls kidnapped by the terrorist group Boko Haram.
Washington is “committed to supporting the Libyan people during this challenging time,” State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said in a prepared statement.
However, the State Department had already “temporarily” shrunk the size of the embassy in Tripoli after the infamous attack on the American consulate in Benghazi in September 2012.
Instability has wracked Libya since a loose rebel coalition ousted former dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. These militias continued to challenge the authority of the country’s new central government.
State’s decision to evacuate the embassy follows increasingly violent conflict between these factions, as well as Islamist terrorist groups. Recently, rival fighters turned Tripoli’s airport into a battleground and destroyed almost a dozen private aircraft in the skirmish.
The battle effectively shut down all civilian operations at the airport. The situation could have been a factor in the decision to send the Americans to Tunisia by land instead of flying them out.
More moderate groups, as well as Libya’s neighbors, also are concerned about the resurgence of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. At the moment, forces associated with rogue general Khalifa Haftar are effectively laying siege to Bengahzi to try and root out fighters from the AQIM-linked group Ansar Al Sharia.
Washington clearly hopes its diplomats will only be absent in Libya for a short time. But there is no clear indication that the fighting will slow any time soon.