Clashes in Tripoli have forced the U.S. to shut down the embassy in Libya and evacuate all diplomats and personnel to Tunisia under military escort. The State Department explained that this decision is due to the fact that fighting seems to be intensifying in Tripoli and that the current conditions don’t allow for proper security conditions for American diplomats.
Marie Harf, spokeswoman for the State Department declared that the ongoing violence that has been raging between Libyan militias has U.S. Ambassadors in the immediate vicinity of harm and that such a risk shouldn’t be considered worth taking. They have been therefore relocated out of Libya for the time being. Harf went on to say that the decision was not taken lightly but that personnel safety is their top concern. The U.S. puts security first and seeing that the location of the embassy is in close proximity to the fighting that is taking place, the diplomats had to be taken to safety.
The State Department’s decision is clearly also strengthened by the vivid memories of the 2012 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi. Because the safety of U.S. diplomats abroad is of great concern to the Obama administration and because, particularly in Libya, the situation always bring bad memories to mind, relocating the diplomats out of Tripoli seems like the best call.
In Tripoli, the embassy had already been functioning with limited staffing, precisely because of the volatile situation. On Monday, staff left the capital around dawn and traveled to Tunisia. Eighty Marines accompanied 70 embassy staff members in a caravan on their trip out of the city. The assistance that the U.S. military offered diplomats was at the request of the Department of State according to a spokesman from the U.S. Department of Defense. Security was provided during their movement by F-16’s, ISR assets and an Airborne Response Force. Another safety measure was to not announce the evacuation ahead of time, so that embassy staffers could depart safely.
The U.S. embassy will not be operational during the time in which they are not in Tripoli. Suspending embassy operations was the obvious step and until it is determined that safety conditions are appropriate, activities will remain suspended.
Turkey also evacuated its embassy on Friday when they announced that, similarly to the United Nations, foreign envoys and aid groups, they will also be leaving the region until proper safety conditions can allow their activities to take place in an orderly fashion.