Boots on the Ground in Libya!

Four American soldiers are now on the ground in Libya. Reports have them wearing boots.

Four American soldiers are now on the ground in Libya. Reports have them wearing boots.

Fox News (“U.S. Boots on the Ground in Libya, Pentagon Confirms“)

Despite repeated assurances from President Obama and military leaders that the U.S. would not send uniformed military personnel into Libya, four U.S. service members arrived on the ground in Tripoli over the weekend.

According to Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby, the four unidentified troops are there working under the State Department’s chief of mission to assist in rebuilding the U.S. Embassy. Kirby noted the embassy in Tripoli was badly damaged during the conflict between Muammar Qaddafi’s forces and the rebels.

Two of the military personnel are explosive-ordnance experts who will be used to disable any explosives traps left in the embassy. The other two are “general security,” according to Kirby.

Kirby also made clear these troops are in no way part of a military operation on the ground. They are armed, however, if for some reason they need to protect themselves. The troops are only expected to be there for a short while. After the assessment of the embassy is complete, they are expected to leave.

Obama assured Americans in March when the bombing campaign over Libya began that there would be no boots on the ground. From the East Room of the White House on March 18, he said: “The United States is not going to deploy ground troops into Libya.” Several days later at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., he said: “I said that America’s role would be limited, that we would not put ground troops into Libya, that we would focus our unique capabilities on the front end of the operation and that we would transfer responsibility to our allies and partners. Tonight, we are fulfilling that pledge.”

Since then, U.S. officials speaking on the condition of anonymity have acknowledged the CIA has had a small number of so-called “spotters” on the ground to assist in the NATO mission. It’s also well known that other foreign governments have sent special operations forces to fight on the ground with the rebels.

John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told Fox News the fact that four troops are on the ground is “no big deal,” considering the embassy had been trashed. ”You need this kind of expertise to make it safe for diplomats to return,” Bolton said.

The fact that even John Bolton thinks this is no big deal is a pretty good indication that this is no big deal. He is, to put it mildly, not a fan of the president.

While I opposed American military intervention in Libya and would oppose American participation in stabilization operations now that the Gaddafi government is ousted, it’s rather silly to say that the president has somehow gone back on his word here. Clearly, when he promised not to “deploy ground troops,” he meant putting Americans into ground combat. Sending in an EOD team and a couple of security guards after the war is over surely doesn’t cross into that territory.

UPDATE: Stephen Saideman points out, too, that US Marines are guarding every US embassy on the planet. Then again, they usually wear low quarters, not boots!

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, Quick Takes, World Politics,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Sam says:

    American boots were on the ground form day one, not week one, or months one.

    Those boots were pointing at targets with their lasers.

  2. Franklin says:

    I thought the excerpt was tongue-in-cheek, until I went back up to the top to check the source.

  3. My compliments to Fox News for the bullshit news story of the week. On a Monday no less!

  4. michael reynolds says:

    It’s basically D-Day all over again.

  5. john personna says:

    @michael reynolds:

    No, Dunkirk!

  6. The fact that even John Bolton thinks this is no big deal is a pretty good indication that this is no big deal.

    I dunno, generally John Bolton telling me not to worry about something is a sign I should be worrying about it.

  7. VonDoom says:

    Um, doesn’t the US technically have troops “in boots” on the ground in every US embassy? At least the one’s that haven’t been abandoned?

    Faux will stop at nothing to try and discredit Obama. I’m surprised Faux hasn’t reported that Obama had his tail and horns removed at birth.

  8. Vast Variety says:

    Well Technically Embassies are generally considered the sovereign territory of the country that of whose embassy it is. So technically as long as they stay in the embassy they aren’t in Libya. =)

  9. VonDoom says:

    @Vast Variety: So then “technically” we don’t have troops on the ground in Libya because they are in the embassy, right?

    The only thing more fallacious than this story on Faux are the comment boards that follow it. Most are blatant racist comments from people who would probably claim that hating Obama has nothing to do with race. Gotta keep “The South Shall Rise Again” dream alive. Scary that these people can vote.