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100 U.S. Marines, two Apache helicopters reinforcing embassy in Baghdad after attack

By: Philip Athey

100 U.S. Marines, two Apache helicopters reinforcing embassy in Baghdad after attack
A detachment of 100 Marines is deploying to Iraq to reinforce security at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad after Iraqi protesters supportive of an Iran-backed Shiite militia attempted to storm the compound, U.S. Central Command said Tuesday.
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U.S. Marines assigned to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command (SPMAFTF-CR-CC) 19.2, prepare to deploy from Kuwait in support of a crisis response mission, Dec. 31, 2019. (Sgt. Robert Gavaldon/Marine Corps)

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All U.S. personnel are secure and there are no plans to evacuate the embassy, the State Department told Military Times in a Tuesday email.

The State Department added that the U.S. ambassador for Iraq, Matt Tueller, is returning to the embassy from previously scheduled personal travel.

The Marines were requested by the U.S. State Department and their deployment was approved by Iraqi Security Forces, Central Command spokesman Mike Lawhorn told Military Times by phone Tuesday. Two Apache attack helicopters are providing over watch.

The Marines are part of Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Forces Crisis Response — Central Command and came from Kuwait, according to a tweet from the Marine unit. The helicopters came from Taji, Iraq, Lawhorn said.

“The Department of Defense is working closely with the Department of State to ensure the security of our Embassy and personnel in Baghdad,” Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said in a Tuesday press release. “We have taken appropriate force protection actions to ensure the safety of American citizens, military personnel and diplomats in country, and to ensure our right of self-defense."

While the American military will protect the embassy, it also is the responsibility of the Iraqi government to step up and aid in its protection, Esper said.

“As in all countries, we rely on host nation forces to assist in the protection of our personnel in country, and we call on the Government of Iraq to fulfill its international responsibilities to do so,” Esper said.

Marine Corps public affairs officials directed questions from Marine Corps Times back to the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

The 100 Marines sent to reinforce the Baghdad, Iraq, embassy are part of a trend throughout the past five years of the Corps sending additional Marines to reinforce the ever-present Marine security guards or evacuate embassies around the world.

Many of the past embassy missions have used Marines from Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Forces Crisis Response — Central Command, which was created after the 2012 attack on the diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, that resulted in the death of four Americans.

The protesters who stormed the U.S. embassy in Iraq were angry over Sunday’s airstrikes by U.S. forces against the Iran-backed militia and broke through the main door of the embassy and cried “Down, Down, USA!” according to The Associated Press.

After the protesters destroyed the main gate of the compound, a reception area in the embassy caught fire and U.S. service members were spotted on the roof of the embassy, according to The Associated Press.

In its statement the State Department said though the protesters did enter into the embassy compound, there has been no “breach.”

In response to the attack on the embassy, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to blaming Iran for “orchestrating” the protests.

Military Times managing editor Howard Altman contributed to this report.


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