WASHINGTON — The U.S. military is preparing to deploy a new crisis response force to the Middle East as threats to U.S. facilities and personnel there grow.
Marine Corps Col. Kenneth DeTreux said the new unit is being set up and will be deployed to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility in fiscal 2015. The 2,100 troops will be stationed throughout the theater with the headquarters element in Kuwait, he said.
The force is “currently being built to have rotary wing and fixed wing assets based on the threat,” he told reporters at the Pentagon on Friday.
DeTreux is the commander of a Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force-Crisis Response, based in Morón, Spain. The unit consists of about 1,200 Marines plus MV-22 Osprey transport aircraft and KC-130 refueling tankers. Some of the assets have been stationed in Siganella, Italy.
The crisis response force was established in 2013 in the wake of the 2012 Benghazi attacks on the U.S. consulate and CIA annex, as U.S. officials sought to improve the military’s ability to respond to such incidents on short notice.
The force is primarily responsible for dealing with crises in North Africa. The force has responded to multiple emergencies; in July it conducted an operation to evacuate the U.S. embassy in Tripoli after militias lobbed shells into the compound.
DeTreux said his unit stands ready to deploy within six hours of receiving the order. When put on high alert, it can move within an hour or two, he told reporters.
There is great concern among U.S. officials about potential attacks against American personnel and facilities in the Middle East. In recent months, the Pentagon has deployed hundreds of extra troops to Iraq to guard against possible terrorist attacks against the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and other critical facilities. The American embassy in Yemen is also under threat from militants.
DeTreux suggested that the crisis response force that will be deployed to the Middle East will be somewhat similar to his, but it will be sized and shaped to respond to the specific threats in the region.
“No one size fits all, and that’s the strength of MAGTF,” he said.