The Marine Corps has moved eight MV-22 Ospreys and 250 Marines to Naval Air Station Sigonella in Italy to potentially evacuate Americans from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, Marine Corps and Pentagon officials said.
Continued violence in the region has prompted Saudi Arabia and Algeria to evacuate their embassies in Tripoli and led the U.S. military to take preparatory measures in the event that the State Department requests evacuation assistance for U.S. personnel. "This is about being on heightened alert and preparation," said Capt. Eric Flanagan, Marine Corps spokesman. "These moves will improve our capability to respond should the need arise. There is no request and no demand for a military operation at this time."
Pentagon officials say clashes between government forces, terrorist groups and local militias are getting close to U.S. facilities, therefore presenting risks and concerns.
The 250 Marines are from a Marine Air Ground Task Force, or MAGTAF, normally based in Moron, Spain. They are now in Sicily, along with the MV-22 Ospreys and three C-130 Hercules aircraft, said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary.
"They're ready to go," Kirby said, indicating that the Marines would be quick to move in the event that an evacuation order is given.
Each Osprey can carry up to 24 people, Flanagan added, but Corps officials declined to discuss what a potential evacuation might look like.
"These forces are postured to respond to early reinforcement of U.S. facilities and early drawdown of US personnel before a crisis develops. Operational security and the wide range of possible missions preclude us from discussing tactics, techniques, procedures and alert postures or response times," Flanagan said.
The MAGTAF supplying the Marines is a special, self-sustainable rapid reaction unit of 850 Marines designed to be ready to respond to crises in the region.
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