The U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, has been temporarily shut down and the diplomats evacuated when fighting between rival militias intensified near the embassy.
Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement that the embassy would be “temporarily” shut down – not closed permanently – due to “free-wheeling militia violence.” Yep, “free-wheeling militia.” Apparently, that’s a euphemism for terrorists with AK-47s.
The diplomats were safely relocated to Tunisia, where they will continue working on Libya issues and will return to Tripoli as soon as the State Department determines the facilities are secure. The AP reported:
The Pentagon said in statement that F-16 fighter jets and other U.S. aircraft provided security. “The mission was conducted without incident, and the entire operation lasted approximately five hours,” the statement said.
“Securing our facilities and ensuring the safety of our personnel are top department priorities, and we did not make this decision lightly,” [State Department spokeswoman Marie] Harf said. “Security has to come first. Regrettably, we had to take this step because the location of our embassy is in very close proximity to intense fighting and ongoing violence between armed Libyan factions.”
The evacuation was accompanied by the release of a new State Department travel warning for Libya urging Americans not to go to the country and recommending that those already there leave immediately. “The Libyan government has not been able to adequately build its military and police forces and improve security,” it said. “Many military-grade weapons remain in the hands of private individuals, including antiaircraft weapons that may be used against civilian aviation.”
It’s too late for the four who were killed when the State Department failed to provide adequate security in Benghazi, but perhaps a lesson has been learned since these diplomats were able to get out safely.