Marines Headed To Libya To Reinforce Security

BY Herschel Smith
11 years, 7 months ago

From the AP:

U.S. officials say some 50 Marines are being sent to Libya to reinforce security at U.S. diplomatic facilities in the aftermath of an attack in the eastern city of Benghazi that killed the U.S. ambassador and three American members of his staff.

The Marines are members of an elite group known as a Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team, whose role is to respond on short notice to terrorism threats and to reinforce security at U.S. embassies. They operate worldwide.

The officials who disclosed the plan to send the Marines spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

There’s that word I don’t like again: “elite.”  You can disagree if you wish, but I think this is wrongheaded.  We don’t need “elite” forces, any more than we need “elite” SWAT team members when there’s a call for help in the typical American city, any more than we need “elite” law enforcement officers to come and rescue us in the case of threats rather than defend ourselves.

We need firepower.  We need an infantry mentality.  My son observed one day to me that with a Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) gunner laying down area suppressive fire, the leader with M203 40mm grenade launcher under his M4, and two other Marines with M4s or M16s providing defense of the SAW and leader, the typical Marine Corps infantry fire team can lay down an awful lot of effective fire, especially when conducting squad rushes or room clearing.  Given three fire teams in a squad, I would think that a few squads of Marine infantry would be very capable of providing the necessary security.

With our anemic and effeminate foreign policy, we’ve ceded both Egypt and Libya to the Islamists, so it’s better to bring the Americans home.  It’s done.  Our Middle East policy has been a failure, top to bottom, side to side, front to back.  But if you must keep a staff there, the next time Islamists try to suffocate an American diplomat, let the infantry lay down enough fire to kill them all as quickly as possible.  It matters not how many there are at the gate.  If they’re there, they are a threat.  Marine infantry tactics to deal with a threat is to kill the threat with extreme violence.  They’ll think before trying that one again.

We don’t need precise elitism.  We need firepower if we’re going to place diplomats in foreign countries that we intend to cede to the Islamists.

UPDATE #1: John Jay has some thoughts.

UPDATE #2: DirtyMick, who is a former employee of the DoD, brings us this report from Reuters-Africa:

Accounts of the mayhem at the U.S. consulate, where the ambassador and a fourth American died after a chaotic protest over a film insulting to Islam, remain patchy. But two Libyan officials, including the commander of a security force which escorted the U.S. rescuers, said a later assault on a supposedly safe refuge for the diplomats appeared professionally executed.

Miscommunication which understated the number of American survivors awaiting rescue – there were 37, nearly four times as many as the Libyan commander expected – also meant survivors and rescuers found themselves short of transport to escape this second battle, delaying an eventual dawn break for the airport.

Captain Fathi al-Obeidi, whose special operations unit was ordered by Libya’s authorities to meet an eight-man force at Benghazi airport, said that after his men and the U.S. squad had found the American survivors who had evacuated the blazing consulate, the ostensibly secret location in an isolated villa came under an intense and highly accurate mortar barrage.

“I really believe that this attack was planned,” he said, adding to suggestions by other Libyan officials that at least some of the hostility towards the Americans was the work of experienced combatants. “The accuracy with which the mortars hit us was too good for any regular revolutionaries.”

[ … ]

Of the eight American troops who had come from Tripoli, one was killed and two were wounded, Obeidi said. A Libyan deputy interior minister said a second American was also killed in the attack on the safe house. It was not clear if this was a diplomat or one of the consulate’s original security detail.

“It began to rain down on us,” Obeidi told Reuters, describing the moment the attack began – just as the Libyan security force was starting up the 10 pickup trucks and sedans they had brought to ferry the Americans to the airport.

“About six mortars fell directly on the path to the villa,” he said. “During this firing, one of the marines whom I had brought with me was wounded and fell to the ground.

“As I was dragging the wounded marine to safety, some marines who were located on the roof of the villa as snipers shouted and the rest of the marines all hit the ground.

“A mortar hit the side of the house. One of the marines from the roof went flying and fell on top of us.”

Read the entire report.  Consider the things I said above in light of the facts that we can glean from this Reuters report.  First, this was a complex, well-coordinated attack.  Second, it involved machine guns, RPGs and mortars.  Third, only a squad was included in the QRF that responded to the event.  Fourth, they clearly weren’t prepared for either the initial assault or the evacuation.  Fifth, more men toting M4s wouldn’t have been an adequate reponse, and clearly aren’t adequate for future consulate security if we intend to be in this part of the world.  A well-placed mortar or RPG beats an M4 every time.  Finally, the Marines had shooters (probably designated marksmen, or guys who have been through DM training), and this wasn’t adequate.  There is only so much that good shooters can do.

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  1. On September 12, 2012 at 1:54 pm, JeffC said:

    without giving those Marines permission to fire, sending more of them only gives the bad guys more targets …

    our problem is never firepower, its willpower …

  2. On September 12, 2012 at 1:57 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    Well, just to be precise in my view here, don’t give them ROE at all. If they cannot lay down fire if they feel threatened, then bring them all home now, including Marines doing security.

  3. On September 12, 2012 at 3:49 pm, Burk said:

    Yup, that is exactly why an “elite” team is required here.

    If the infantry-minded grunts go into a civilian area and lay down the kind of fire you speak of, we won’t have many friends in Libya or elsewhere. Some judgement is called for, presumably part of the elite equipment for those trained to work with diplomatic missions.

    Anyhow, I thought that the Republicans were all about toppling despotism around the world. Now you complain about post-depostic chaos and freedom. Methinks you complain a little too much.

  4. On September 12, 2012 at 3:58 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    Methinks you need to go and provide the security yourself. Do not put our men in harm’s way with pansy-ass ROE for people who do not want to be our friends anyway.

    People don’t respect your vision, Burk. In this part of the world, they respect force or the capability and willingness to use it.

    In the mean time, maybe you should make your views known to the boys at CNAS concerning foreign policy. They may want to hear from you. Oh yea. It’s their vision that got us into this mess to begin with (along with Obama’s – he just surrounded himself with like-minded counselors). On the other hand, they may be making for the doors in order to find a new job.

  5. On September 12, 2012 at 4:44 pm, jean said:

    Agreed, don’t send infantry to pull guard duty. The Middle East is crumbling under a wave of Muslim extremism. There will be plenty of work for Marines/Infantry in the future. The media can’t wait to blame some obscure film maker for the attack. You don’t have to look far on YouTube to find hateful material of any type or subject. More details are starting to emerge. Media is reporting this was a three hour ordeal. Look for the Obama gang to cirlce the wagons. My thought and prayers are with the familes.

  6. On September 12, 2012 at 4:58 pm, Herschel Smith said:


    Your disagreement is more learned than is Burk’s, who is responding out of stupidity. As for your view, , I understand it, but infantry did guard duty for many MC FOBs in the Anbar Province in 2005 – 2008. You know what AQ managed to pull off when Marines pulled guard duty for FOB Reaper (inside Fallujah) in 2007?


    Did the Marines lay down fire from the FOBs and IP precincts and on patrol? You betcha. Lot’s. Enough ’till the problems went away.

    They know how to do it. The “elite” Marines going to Libya won’t go with SAWs, won’t go with ordnance, won’t go with clear ROE, won’t go with the knowledge that they are backed by an administration with a backbone, and so on. It doesn’t matter that they are “elite.” That’s a buzz word. People who use buzz words can’t be trusted and don’t know what they’re talking about.

    Oh, and I also have known some of the Marines who went through this MOS. They are the same ones who guard the nuclear missile installations in the U.S. Most of them have never seen combat and haven’t gone through any training any different from or superior to MOS 0311.

  7. On September 12, 2012 at 5:40 pm, jean said:

    I think what we all are missing in this discussion, is that the “leadership” failed to recognize the need to have a plan to transition from a standard perimeter security mission to a people protection mission. Also, no QRF or bug out plan. They failed in their threat analysis. Libya as with its neighbors to the east and west has radical elements that are aligned with AQ. Why was the AMBO in an area without proper protection? I am certainty an advocate of a sound defense, pending the resumption of offensive operations.

  8. On September 12, 2012 at 5:59 pm, DirtyMick said:

    I don’t think FAST teams are “elite” per se. From my understanding their specific duties and responsibilities are counter terror but at the end of the day they’re 03xx MOSs. Kind of a like how a bunch of heavy weapons grunts form CAAT platoons or grunts in SS platoons. They’re still grunts but they have a specific duty.
    My question is where was the security detail at the consulate?

  9. On September 12, 2012 at 6:05 pm, jean said:

    This incident is similar to an attack on a UN compound in North Afghanistan, in which 6 to 7 UN personnel were murdered by the Taliban using the riot as cover to storm the building. Local security fled or joined the protestors. Some of the attackers were later identified as former guests of the COF.

    Good question about the security detail, at least one of the KIA was a DOS staffer….so does that mean a PSD of only two?? How many survived the attack? Any POWS/MIA . There is more to this story.

  10. On September 12, 2012 at 6:54 pm, lrb said:

    Sorry to interject facts here, but a FAST is a reinforced infantry platoon, 3 big squads with snipers and assaultmen attached. It is not elite by any stretch of the imagination, security forces are open to all MOSs, not just infantry.

  11. On September 12, 2012 at 7:01 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    Oh, I don’t think for a minute that this defense was well-prepared. Of course it wasn’t. There is certainly more to the story. We just haven’t heard it yet. My main point is that sending over some “elite” troops toting M4s (even some carrying M14s as the group DM) won’t do the trick when the Islamists are carrying RPGs.

  12. On September 12, 2012 at 11:54 pm, jj said:

    Unfortunately, the FAST teams should have been sent in PRIOR, not after. Typical administration failure of being reactive while “thinking it thru” with their superior minds. And, wasn’t this consulate bombed in June?

  13. On September 13, 2012 at 2:05 am, DirtyMick said:

    Herschel this needs to be looked at…

    It states that the QRF was one Marine squad sent to link up with a Libyan security element to rescue those at the consulate. So the QRF was one Marine Squad (wtf?!) with no gunship escort and some ragtag Libyans. To make matters worse nobody had an accurate count of the personnel at the consulate and they went in thinking they were getting 10 Americans as opposed to 37. They ended up running into a complex ambush with machine guns, RPGs, and very accurate mortar fire. With the accuracy of the mortars I would assume they either knew the route the QRF was going to take or they had TRPs set up.

  14. On September 13, 2012 at 8:06 am, jean said:

    An abortive rescue attempt??
    That was some excellent Intel gathering, certainly no mention of that in the main stream media. Lets see how they spin this in the next 48 It is hard to hide active duty causalities.

  15. On September 13, 2012 at 9:53 am, Cog said:

    On an AJ report they noted that there was a point in the protest where a number of heavily bearded men blocked off the streets in a coordinated fashion prior to the attack. In conjunction with the mortar information, pretty clear evidence of a planned assault.

    Also saw reports of Libyans dragging the ambassador through the streets. It deserves to be mentioned that the ambassador was carried to the hospital by Libyans, assuming it was either a member of his security detail or one of the libyan staff he worked with. Another article noted that 10 Libyan security personal died protecting the embassy. Haven’t heard much about that.

  16. On September 13, 2012 at 10:47 am, Jay Borgmann said:

    As a former Marine myself, and one who served in the Security Forces, I can tell you that FAST (Fleet AntiTerrorist Security Teams) are specially and extensively trained for this type of situation.

    Not only that, but remember that EVERY Marine is first and foremost a Rifleman / Infantryman. FAST still has the Infantry mentality, but they have special training to augment it. And do not doubt that they will have adequate fire-power for the job.

    They receive extensive CQB training and tons of range time on the weapons they carry.

    And although many in the past may have not seen combat, I bet a large majority (if not all) of the current members have served at least one rotation in Iraq or Afghanistan.

  17. On September 13, 2012 at 10:53 am, Donald Campbell said:

    In reference to the USMC FAST squad. I used to work at NWS Yorktown, that houses at least part of the FAST personnel. We used to enjoy observing them training for embassy duty.

    The training required 1/2 those participating to stand ‘guard’ over the ’embassy’. The remaining 1/2 was dressed in ‘civies’ and represented the local protesters of the embassy.

    Let me assure you, when it came to their ability to swear, the protester 1/2 of the squad are elite without peer. It is not the words they use, which we all, of course, know. Rather, it is the peerless combination of those words into truly vile phrases on which they excel. I suspect this training and the ability to dish it out make them well suited to be on the receiving end.

  18. On September 13, 2012 at 10:54 am, Jay Borgmann said:

    Herschel – It’s true that the Security Forces MOS themselves do not receive training superior to your typical infantry platoon, but FAST is not in the same category.

    They are considered a step below Force Recon, and a step above your typical infantry platoon when it comes to the training they receive. They would probably be on par with Battalion Recon (not the same as Force). A lot of specialized training, but in different areas then Recon. A lot of range time, CQB training, and anti-terrorism training.

  19. On September 13, 2012 at 10:56 am, Chap said:

    You’ve jumped on a reporter calling a FAST “elite” and gotten the wrong conclusion. As several have mentioned, this mission needs some dedicated training, but it’s not like JSOC is running an op or anything. FASTs are regionally assigned and every diplomatic post gets some kind of support like this. It’s what we’ve done for a very long time because it works when you put it in place at the right time.

  20. On September 13, 2012 at 10:59 am, Herschel Smith said:


    Thanks for your comments. My intent is not to insult, it is to discuss. The FAST boys that transferred into my son’s unit were in extremely good physical shape (stunningly good, in fact, almost oddly good shape, better than the Recon boys I knew), but had to be extensively retrained in CQB tactics and room clearing, as well as field and small unit maneuver combat.

    My concern is not that, per se, but the mindset that is being brought to the issue. Again, not the personnel, but the mindset. If we bring a “get some elite troopers with M4s to the rescue” mindset to the problem, they will get mowed down by RPG fire, whether infantry or FAST.

    They need more than that, and it is clear that we were caught very much with our pants down.

    Naive. Both foreign policy and security procedures.

    Naive. That’s the main point, whether said well or poorly.

  21. On September 13, 2012 at 11:01 am, Herschel Smith said:

    Chap, I’m assuming (maybe wrongly?) that the word “elite” came from the DoD source, not the reporter.

    See comment above back at Jay.

  22. On September 13, 2012 at 11:17 am, S P Dudley said:

    The FAST teams are specifically oriented to reinforce embassy security, they’re not Infantry units per se although they’re equipped with Infantry weapons and are Infantry MOS.

    We can all armchair general this thing to death but it doesn’t take a genius to see that a MEU-SOC is what’s really required for security of any and all Americans in the country. The Obama Administration, in it’s political need to make Libya look stable and secure, has been hiding the chaos in the country. I doubt they’ve got the balls to actually admin there’s a war still going on.

  23. On September 13, 2012 at 12:27 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    Another recent report:

  24. On September 13, 2012 at 1:33 pm, Marine Jet said:

    GET SOME FAST COMPANY!!!!! Do not hesitate to kill kill kill! Send them bastards to hell!

    Semper Fidelis!

  25. On September 13, 2012 at 2:24 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    Then there is this sad, sad report about Marines providing “security” for the Egyptian embassy not being allowed live ammunition by the State Department.

    How sad have we become.

  26. On September 13, 2012 at 4:27 pm, Sarge said:

    Not “We,” Hershel – – the feckless buffoons who are currently running the Executive branch like it’s some kind of law campus, they, THEY have proven to be sad beyond previous measure, inept, incompetent, insufferably smug, impenetrably conceited, and completely out of their depth at anything beyond electioneering and fundraising.

    They have been aided and abetted by the provision of protective coloration by the very press organs who are supposed to be constantly looking for weakness or inadequacy in our elected officials, so we the public know when it is time to replace them.

    Forcing Marines to guard an Embassy without arms… that’s just asking for them to become either martyrs or hostages, should a mob decide to press the point.

    I am without words to properly convey how disgusted I am with the Administration’s bungling. Pathetic doesn’t even come close.

  27. On September 13, 2012 at 6:33 pm, jean said:

    No photo op moments of the situation room, oh the command team was asleep, while their consulate was over run and the QRF ambushed. I am beyond being disgusted.

  28. On September 14, 2012 at 4:35 am, Peter said:

    All I know is that if they’re serious about defending a Consulate or an Embassy, which are, after all, US soil they need more than rifles. They need belt fed weapons and TOW missiles, along with large containers of Claymore mines and some bloop guns.

    Either defend them with all the fury the United States is, or at least used to be, capable of or bring everyone out of there.

  29. On September 15, 2012 at 1:19 am, Travis said:

    FYI almost the entire fast platoon are grunts.

  30. On September 15, 2012 at 6:00 am, dan rodriguez said:

    here we go again .. what we need over there is a gung -ho infantry officer that is going to lay down some suppressive fire power , destroy the target and gat close with the enemies. its like the movie Rules Of Engagement. “waste the mother Fu**kers and go home and do it again the next day.thats how grunts roll back in the day . Fu**k all the politicians just take orders from Jim Mattis … semper Fi 3/2 marine .

  31. On September 15, 2012 at 6:01 am, dan rodriguez said:

    here we go again .. what we need over there is a gung -ho infantry officer that is going to lay down some suppressive fire power , destroy the target and gat close with the enemies. its like the movie Rules Of Engagement. “waste the mother Fu**kers and go home and do it again the next day.thats how grunts roll back in the day . Fu**k all the politicians just take orders from Jim Mattis … semper Fi 3/2 marine.

  32. On September 15, 2012 at 8:51 pm, Tintin said:

    The word “elite” almost certainly came from the reporter. In the eyes of some uninformed reporters, anything that is not a standard infantry platoon — and some things that *are* standard infantry platoons — are “elite,” a special codeword that makes the story sound sexier. JSOC special mission units: elite. “White” SOF: elite. An infantry battalion’s scout platoon: elite. EOD: elite.

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This article is filed under the category(s) Foreign Policy,Marine Corps and was published September 12th, 2012 by Herschel Smith.

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