Marines ready to deploy in wake of Trump’s Jerusalem announcement
By COREY DICKSTEIN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 7, 2017
WASHINGTON — Marine units are ready to protect American embassies and consulates in countries across the world where unrest could be sparked by President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a Defense Department spokesman said Thursday.
“We are always postured for a range of threats,” Army Col. Rob Manning said. “We are postured right now to handle any threat at all of our embassies and consulates worldwide.”
However, Manning declined to provide what measures have been implemented by the U.S. military to bolster security following Trump’s announcement Wednesday that the United States will no longer recognize Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital. Israelis and Palestinians both claim Jerusalem as their capital.
“We are protecting our embassies and the [Defense Department] takes very seriously the steps to make sure that we mitigate U.S. personnel and interests around the world,” he said. “It is commanders’ job to make sure we have the forces necessary on the ground to meet mission requirements based on threat assessments. We’ve done that at all our embassies and consulates in conjunction with our State Department partners.”
Citing operational security concerns, Defense and State department officials declined to confirm Thursday whether that included pre-positioning Marine security guards at potentially vulnerable U.S. facilities ahead of Trump’s announcement. However, Manning said land- and sea-based Marine units in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility were prepared to react, if needed. Central Command oversees military operations throughout the Middle East and central Asia.
Should U.S. embassies or consulates come under the threat of attack, Marine Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Teams, known as FAST companies, would be deployed to respond, according to the Marine Corps. The teams are designed to prevent or react to an overrun of U.S. government assets and protect employees and property. FAST units typically deploy as platoons of about 50 Marines.
After the 2012 Benghazi consulate attack, for instance, a FAST unit was sent to guard the U.S. embassy in Libya.
In recent years, FAST troops also have provided reinforcement for embassies in Kyrgyzstan, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, and Iraq, according to Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team Central Command.
By Thursday, American embassies in more than 20 countries had issued warnings of potentially violent protests over the Jerusalem decision. Those warnings were issued in nations in the Middle East, South and Central Asia, Europe and South America.
Additionally, the State Department issued a worldwide caution to Americans outside the United States, warning of the “possibility of political unrest, violence, demonstrations, and criminal activities” and confirming U.S. government facilities were operating at a heightened state of alert. The announcement issued Wednesday did not directly reference the Jerusalem decision.
By Thursday morning, protesters had begun clashing with Israeli troops in Jerusalem, Ramallah and in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the Washington Post reported. Palestinian groups called for protests of Trump’s decision, including the Islamist group Hamas, which urged for an uprising against Israel, known as an “intifada.”
However, the Pentagon had not changed its force posture at its facilities since Trump’s announcement, said Defense and State department officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis meets with U.S. Marines at the U.S. Embassy in Doha, Qatar, April 22, 2017. A Defense Department official said Thursday, Dec. 7, that Marine units are ready to protect American embassies and consulates around the world, as the United States' decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is expected to stir unrest.
BRIGITTE N. BRANTLEY/U.S. AIR FORCE