The Pentagon directed at least 100 crisis response Marines to reinforce the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday following violent protests — and released photos and videos of it all.
The Marines, assigned to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command (SPMAFTF-CR-CC), responded after the State Department’s urgent request for protection at the embassy.
Videos and photos released by the Department of Defense show the Marines loading up in MV-22 Ospreys from Kuwait and deploying at the U.S Embassy in Baghdad.
The SPMAFTF-CR-CC is ground force deployed to the Middle East that specializes in crisis response, and mobilizes quickly to situations like the unrest surrounding the embassy.
The Trump administration is reportedly considering sending at least hundreds — if not thousands — of troops to the Middle East amid the unrest, ABC News reported.
Marine Commandant Gen. David Berger tweeted of the deployment, saying, “Marines, always ready at a moment’s notice…”
Marines, always ready at a moment’s notice… https://t.co/xo2pep4lhn
— David H. Berger (@CMC_MarineCorps) December 31, 2019
In a statement, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper confirmed that protection measures were underway.
“The Department of Defense is working closely with the State Department to ensure the security of our Embassy and personnel in Baghdad,” Esper said.
“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. We are sending additional forces to support our personnel at the Embassy,” Esper continued.
“As in all countries, we rely on host nation forces to assist in the protection of our personnel in country, & we call on the Gov’t of Iraq to fulfill its international responsibilities to do so. The US continues to support the Iraqi people & a free, sovereign, & prosperous Iraq,” he added.
DOD video also showed AH-64 Apache helicopters providing air support and dropping flares over the embassy.
U.S. Army soldiers at the nearby Forward Operating Base Union III in Baghdad were also photographed taking defensive positions.
The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad was stormed by pro-Iranian protesters early Tuesday, less than two days after the U.S. carried out airstrikes on five sites belonging to the Iran-backed Iraqi militia, Kata’ib Hezbollah.
The protesters set fire to the embassy’s perimeter, smashed windows and doors, and marched and chanted while shouting “death to America” and “down, down America.”
Embassy employees and diplomats were forced to evacuate the location and are now in hiding.
The U.S. airstrikes conducted on Sunday came in response after the Kata’ib Hezbollah militia launched a 30+ rocket attack on the K1 military base near Kirkuk, Iraq, which left one U.S. defense contractor dead, and four other U.S. service members injured, according to a Pentagon statement.
The U.S. airstrikes killed 25 militia members and injured 51, and the militia vowed to strike back on the U.S. in revenge.