- Around 100 US Marines assigned to a special crisis response unit are currently 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, an apparent reaction to US airstrikes on Iran-backed Iraqi militias following a rocket attack that killed and wounded US personnel in country.
- 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 to quickly respond to regional contingencies.
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Roughly 100 US Marines assigned to a special crisis response unit are currently on the ground in Iraq to reinforce the US embassy in Baghdad after swarms of protesters stormed the gate.
The Marines, members of 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry regiment, are assigned to the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command (SPMAFTF-CR-CC). They deployed from Kuwait to Baghdad following an earlier announcement by the secretary of defense.
“We are sending additional forces to support our personnel at the Embassy,” Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said in a statement Tuesday.
He explained that “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-defense.”
The troops were apparently transported into Iraq aboard MV-22 Ospreys, a tilt-rotor aircraft designed to carry Marines and supplies quickly into crisis zones.
The Department of Defense 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 Marine force is “designed to move with speed and precision to support operations throughout the Middle East,” US Central Command said Tuesday.
It “conducts crisis response, contingency operations, theater security cooperation, enabling operations and all other missions as may be directed throughout the CENTCOM area of operations,” according to the Marines.
The SPMAFTF-CR-CC 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 Green Zone. “This is certainly a much larger presence than that,” he explained. There are over 40 Marines in a rifle platoon.
The decision to send in roughly 100 Marines to reinforce the US embassy in Baghdad came after protesters stormed the gates of the embassy in an effort to breach the compound, an apparent response to US airstrikes on the Iran-backed Iraqi militia group believed to have carried out a rocket attack that killed and wounded US personnel.
Although protesters were able to, according to Reuters, breach the main gate and set fire to a security post, US embassy personnel are secure, and there has been no breach of the embassy compound, the Department of State said Tuesday.