U.S. Withdrawing Diplomats From Libya After Protests
The U.S. is withdrawing some of its diplomats from Libya in the wake of new protests rocking the country:
Growing concerns over protests roiling Libya prompted the State Department to begin evacuating some diplomats from Tripoli, as the Pentagon put troops stationed at nearby European bases on high alert.
The response was driven in part by the controversy over lax security at U.S. diplomatic installations in Libya last year, when four U.S. government employees, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, were killed in a terrorist attack. Fallout from the Sept. 11, 2012, assault in Benghazi continues to be the subject of an intense political fight, with Republicans accusing the Obama administration of being negligent and attempting to cover up embarrassing facts.
The protests that have spread in Libya over the past week stem largely from the passage of a law that bars from public office officials who served in key roles under the deposed Libyan regime of Moammar Gaddafi. There is no indication so far that the demonstrators are targeting Westerners.
Still, a senior defense official said a Marine quick-response team and a Special Operations unit have been placed on alert to ensure that they can respond if they are needed to evacuate personnel. The nearest U.S. troops are stationed in Spain and Italy.
“The reason we’re able to have these forces on alert is work the Defense Department has done to have additional response options in the wake of Benghazi,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss contingency plans.
The State Department said in a statement that it has ordered the departure of a handful of ”non-essential” personnel from Tripoli as a result of the “unsettled situation,” which includes mass protests outside government facilities.
“We have no indication that the current protests are directed toward Westerners,” the statement said. ”However, sporadic episodes of civil unrest have occurred throughout the country.”
The irony of this action in the wake of the unfolding controversy regarding last year’s attack in Benghazi is pretty apparent. At the very least, though, I suppose it’s good to know that the military has learned its lesson from that tragedy and now stands better prepared to extract Americans from a country that, nearly two years after the downfall of the Gaddafi regime, still remains very unstable.