In the aftermath of the Benghazi, Libya, terrorist attacks and the continuing unrest in the region, the Pentagon has installed a small specialized crisis response team aimed at responding to possible future attacks on U.S. embassies in North Africa and the Middle East.
The Marine Air-Ground Task Force team, based in Spain, has hundreds of Marines, seven Osprey helicopters, and three C-130 planes on constant standby in the event Americans in key hot spots are in need of evacuation.
"One of the things that we learned from Benghazi was the need to have an agile footprint that you can move quickly to address just these kinds of issues in North Africa," Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said at a briefing with reporters, according to Defense One.
"This is part of what we consider the new normal."
In January, the unit deployed to Juba, South Sudan, to evacuate 20 U.S. Embassy staffers. Last May, it was in Signella, Italy, while diplomats evacuated Tripoli after a car bomb killed 10 people in Benghazi, and a team of 250 Marines remains on standby in Italy, according to Defense One.
"We're watching the situation very closely, and we urge, as I think everybody in the U.S. government has been urging, all parties to take a step back from the violence and work through these issues peacefully," Kirby said. "It's certainly unsettling. And quite frankly, that's why we made the decision to move those Marines to Sicily, and they’re ready to go if they’re needed."
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