US sending troops to Italy in case of Libya unrest


The United States is sending a force of 200 Marines supported by two aircraft to Italy as a precaution against unrest in Libya. The force would deploy in case of an attack similar to the one on the US consulate in Benghazi last year.

On Wednesday Italy’s Foreign Minister Emma Bonino said that the Marines were being transferred to Sigonella air base in Sicily. “It is taking place in accordance with bilateral agreements,” Bonino told a joint session of the House and Senate foreign commissions.
“This is a reinforcement for the security of US personnel in Libya or for possible evacuations,” she said. Rather than earlier reports of 500 troops being moved, she said that 75 marines would arrive and would be followed by 125 more.

On September 11, 2012, the US Consulate in Benghazi was attacked and Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other consular officials were killed. Violence continues to plague Libya – 15 people were killed in a car bomb explosion outside a Benghazi hospital on Monday while a car bomb exploded outside the French embassy in Tripoli last month. Two French guards and several civilians were wounded in that attack.

It is not clear if the Marines will come from the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response (SP-MAGTF CR), which was set up to provide limited defence crisis response in support of US embassies in the Arica Command (Africom) area of responsibility. SP-MAGTF CR will also support non-combatant evacuation operations, humanitarian disaster relief operations, search and rescue and provide recovery capabilities.

According to the US military, some of the unit’s core assets are six MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft and two KC-130J air refuelling tankers. These recently deployed from Marine Corps Air Station New River in North Carolina to Moron air base in Spain, on April 27. The Ospreys can carry 20-24 personnel with combat equipment over 325 nautical miles at three times the speed of a helicopter.

SP-MAGTF CR comprises a rotational contingent of approximately 500 Marines, sailors and support elements sourced from a variety of Marine Corps units. It will report to the head of Africom, Army General David Rodriguez.