- About 100 US Marines assigned to a special crisis-response unit are on the ground in Iraq to reinforce the US Embassy in Baghdad.
- The diplomatic outpost in the Iraqi capital has been besieged by violent protesters, in an apparent response to US airstrikes over the weekend targeting an Iran-backed Iraqi militia following a rocket attack that killed and wounded US personnel in Iraq.
- The Marines are assigned to the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Crisis Response -Central Command, a special unit created after the deadly Benghazi attack in 2012 to quickly respond to regional contingencies.
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Roughly 100 US Marines assigned to a special crisis-response unit are on the ground in Iraq to reinforce the US Embassy in Baghdad after swarms of protesters stormed the gate on Tuesday.
The Marines, members of 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, are assigned to the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Central Command. They deployed from Kuwait to Baghdad following an announcement by Secretary of Defence Mark Esper.
“We are sending additional forces to support our personnel at the Embassy,” Esper said.
He added: “We have taken appropriate force protection actions to ensure the safety of American citizens, military personnel and diplomats in country, and to ensure our right of self-defence.”
The troops were apparently transported into Iraq aboard MV-22 Ospreys, tilt-rotor aircraft designed to carry Marines and supplies quickly into crisis zones.
The Department of Defence released video footage of the Marines gearing up for their move into Iraq. The video opens with a shot of troops loading the magazines for their service weapons.
This Marines force is “designed to move with speed and precision to support operations throughout the Middle East,” US Central Command said.
It “conducts crisis response, contingency operations, theatre security cooperation, enabling operations and all other missions as may be directed throughout the CENTCOM area of operations,”according to the Marines.
The unit was created after the deadly 2012 attack on US posts in Benghazi, Libya, where four American diplomatic and intelligence personnel were killed, including a US ambassador.
In addition to embassy reinforcement, these Marines are also trained to carry out evacuations, disaster-relief operations, personnel and equipment recovery, and humanitarian assistance missions.
A Marine Corps spokesman and former member of this unit told Insider that this is probably the first time the US has had to send in these troops in this capacity.
In the past, the US has reinforced with about a platoon’s worth of Marines when protests bled into the so-called Green Zone. “This is certainly a much larger presence than that,” he said. There are over 40 Marines in a rifle platoon.
The decision to send in roughly 100 Marines to reinforce the embassy came after protesters stormed its gates in an effort to breach the compound. It appeared to be a response to US airstrikes over the weekend targeting the Iran-backed Iraqi militia group believed to have carried out a rocket attack that killed and wounded US personnel days earlier.
Though protesters were able to breach the main gate and set fire to a security post, according to Reuters, embassy personnel were secure and the compound had not been breached, the State Department said on Tuesday.
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