The Defense Department has moved nearly 200 Marines to a U.S. base in southern Italy to be able to respond to what a Pentagon spokesman described as a deteriorating security situation in North Africa.
Army Col. Steve Warren told reporters today the Marines arrived at Naval Air Station Sigonella (NASSIG) yesterday at the request of the State Department, with orders to protect American embassies and U.S. personnel across the region and beyond, if needed.
“We’ve forward positioned them to Sigonella, where they’ll be able to respond more quickly to any crisis in North Africa,” Warren said. He did not say where in particular the threat was coming from, but instead called the move a prudent reaction to general unrest in the region.
Six aircraft — two KC-130 Hercules and four MV-22 Ospreys — accompanied the Marines, who are based at Moron Air Base, Spain. “These forces are capable of moving anywhere,” Warren added.
The deployment comes a week after the State Department suspended operations at the U.S. Embassy in Yemen because of recent attacks against Western targets, as well as an increase in attacks in recent weeks by the Boko Haram terrorist group in Nigeria, which continues to hold more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped last month.
The Marines are with the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response. SP-MAGTF CR is a rotational contingent of approximately 800 Marines and sailors and is capable of responding across a broad range of military operations and may provide limited defense crisis response in support of U.S. Embassies in the region, support to non-combatant evacuation operations, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief operations, tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel, or other missions as directed.