U.S. Evacuates Embassy In Tripoli Amid Renewed Violence
While the world has been paying attention to Ukraine, Gaza, and Iraq over the past several weeks, the political and military situation in Libya has also been deteriorating. Militia groups from Misrata and other parts of the country have been battling government forces for weeks now, with much of the recent fighting centering around Tripoli’s airport. In recent days, though, it seems that the situation inside the capital itself has deteriorated to such an extent that the United States has chosen to evacuate all personnel from the embassy:
The U.S. Embassy in Libya evacuated its personnel on Saturday because of heavy militia violence raging in the capital, Tripoli, the State Department said.
About 150 personnel, including 80 U.S. Marines were evacuated from the embassy in the early hours of Saturday morning and were driven across the border into Tunisia, U.S. officials confirm to CNN.
CNN has learned the plan to evacuate the Americans was in the works for several days, but the decision to carry out the plan was made just in the last few days as the security situation around the embassy deteriorated.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the United States is grateful to Tunisia “for its cooperation and support.” She said the personnel are “traveling onward” from Tunisia.
“We are committed to supporting the Libyan people during this challenging time, and are currently exploring options for a permanent return to Tripoli as soon as the security situation on the ground improves. In the interim, staff will operate from Washington and other posts in the region,” Harf said in a statement.
“Securing our facilities and ensuring the safety of our personnel are top Department priorities, and we did not make this decision lightly. Security has to come first. Regrettably, we had to take this step because the location of our embassy is in very close proximity to intense fighting and ongoing violence between armed Libyan factions.
Militia fighting in the area of the embassy and airport has degraded security in Tripoli significantly.
The Pentagon had pressed for weeks to evacuate the embassy, especially after the Tripoli airport came under repeated militia attack, leaving Americans no way to get out via commercial air, the official said.
The decision to use vehicles to drive the Americans across the border was seen as the best low-profile approach to conducting the evacuation rather than sending U.S. military helicopters and troops into Tripoli.
Harf said the United States will work with Libya and the international community “to seek a peaceful resolution to the current conflict and to advance Libya’s democratic transition.”
“We reiterate that Libyans must immediately cease hostilities and begin negotiations to resolve their grievances. We join the international community in calling on all Libyans to respect the will of the people, including the authority of the recently-elected Council of Representatives, and to reject the use of violence to affect political processes. Many brave Libyans sacrificed to advance their country toward a more secure and prosperous future. We continue to stand solidly by the Libyan people as they endeavor to do so,” Harf said.
Instability has been the rule rather than the exception in Libya ever since the Gaddafi regime fell, of course, and in no small part is the reason behind the events that led to the attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi in 2012. Much like Iraq after Saddam, it has seemed as though there is very little holding the nation together without the presence of a strong dictator, which leads to all the warring factions that have been fighting for virtually the last three years. In many ways, this is a reflection of the fact that there seems to have been very little discussion about what a post-Gaddafi Libya would, or should, look like either by Libyan opposition leaders or by the Western powers that intervened in the Libyan civil war in early 2011. The result was the creation of a power vacuum that militant groups rushed into, and a competition among the broad coalition that had opposed Gaddafi in the war for power. At the time, some suggested that the best alternative for the country would be either partition or a system with a relatively weak central government and regions with autonomy to go their own direction. Whether that’s the best solution or not is well above my pay grade, but it certainly seems as though the situation on the ground has gotten much worse, and that Libya is in danger of becoming the breeding ground and safe haven for terrorists that many feared it would become.