- Secretary of Defence Mark Esper announced on Tuesday that the US was “sending additional forces to support our personnel” at the US Embassy in Baghdad after violent protesters stormed the gate.
- US Central Command told Insider that “around 100” additional Marines would be sent to provide security for the diplomatic outpost.
- The protests on Tuesday followed US airstrikes targeting an Iran-backed militia, a response to a rocket attack last Friday that killed a US civilian contractor and injured several American service members.
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The Pentagon announced on Tuesday that the US would send in additional forces to defend the US Embassy in Baghdad after violent protesters stormed the gates earlier in the day.
The protests followed US airstrikes targeting an Iran-backed Iraqi militia, carried out in retaliation for a rocket attack on a local base on Friday that killed a US civilian contractor and wounded several others.
“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,” Secretary of Defence Mark Esper announced in a statement on Tuesday. “We are sending additional forces to support our personnel at the Embassy.”
Esper added that the US continued to “rely on the host nation forces to assist in the protection of our personnel.”
In a tweet earlier Tuesday, President Donald Trump blamed Iran for the attack on the embassy and urged Iraq to defend US personnel in the country.
Esper did not say how many additional troops would be sent to protect the embassy. US Central Command officials, however, told Insider that “around 100” more Marines would be sent to provide additional security for the diplomatic outpost.
The Marines are assigned to the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Central Command and will deploy from Kuwait, CENTCOM said, adding that this force is “designed to move with speed and precision to support operations throughout the Middle East.”
These Marines are, according to Military.com, part of a special crisis-response unit – one of several created after the 2012 attack on a US outpost in Benghazi, Libya – and trained to deal with a variety of emergency situations.
In addition to the decision to send in more troops for added security, the US flew Apache helicopters over the embassy as a show of force.
VIDEO: AH-64 Apaches protect @USEmbBaghdad. ????“We have taken appropriate force protection actions to ensure the safety of American citizens…and to ensure our right of self-defense. We are sending additional forces to support our personnel at the Embassy.”~@EsperDoD ???????????????? pic.twitter.com/amABHBAOcL
— OIR Spokesman Col. Wayne Marotto (@OIRSpox) December 31, 2019
The situation at the embassy follows a series of clashes between US personnel and local militias.
Last Friday, a US civilian contractor was killed and several American service members were wounded in a rocket attack on an Iraqi base in Kirkuk that the US believes was carried out by an Iran-backed militia called Kataib Hezbollah. On Sunday, the US conducted five airstrikes targeting Kataib Hezbollah positions, killing more than two dozen fighters.
The retaliatory strikes sparked violent protests on Tuesday, when demonstrators stormed the main gate of the US Embassy in Baghdad and torched a security post.