US warns all Americans to get out of Libya -- and expands evac force

This development is probably not the best publicity for Barack Obama’s pivot on foreign policy today, but perhaps shows why a pivot is needed. Three years after a remote-control intervention to depose Moammar Qaddafi and nineteen months after the sacking of the American consulate in Benghazi, the US has now warned all American citizens to flee Libya — and has quintupled the size of the evacuation force to get them out. CBS News reports on the “all out” signal (via Drew M at AoSHQ):

As Libya deteriorates into an increasingly armed conflict between hardline Islamic groups and forces loyal to renegade Gen. Khalifa Hifter, the State Department urged U.S. citizens to leave the country as the U.S. began positioning troops to quickly evacuate Americans if necessary.

The amphibious ship Bataan with Ospreys and 1,000 Marines on board has moved into the eastern Mediterranean to be ready for a possible evacuation, CBS News correspondent David Martin reported. The ship had been taking part in an exercise with Jordan.

This is a significant increase over the 200 Marines who had been moved to Sigonella, Sicily, and a significant decrease in the distance Marines would have to travel to evacuate Americans.

The State Department on Tuesday night warned U.S. citizens against traveling to Libya and urged Americans currently in the North African nation to “depart immediately.” …

There is no evacuation currently planned for the U.S. Embassy staff in Tripoli, who can still use the airport if necessary, reported CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan. Positioning the Marines is part of contingency planning put in place after the the 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, in which U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans died.

That’s certainly an improvement in dealing with the aftermath of the disastrous intervention in Libya, but it doesn’t change the root cause of the collapse. The Obama administration, and especially the State Department under Hillary Clinton, tried for far too long to pretend that their intervention had liberated Libya and allowed a democratic government to emerge. While every other Western organization bailed out of eastern Libya because of the collapse of authority in the region, the State Department stuck around and cut its security force in Benghazi even while terrorist attacks increased. AFRICOM and State didn’t prepare for attacks on the anniversary of 9/11, arguably to maintain this fantasy of foreign-policy success.

That will be a key focus of the select committee on Benghazi. At least, that will be the focus unless Democrats succeed in derailing the probe through Rep. Elijah Cummings, as Politico reports the strategy behind his selection to the panel:

Cummings’ work has made him a champion to the left — where he’s called in noted witnesses like Fluke to testify — and a respected foe to some on the right. So while Democrats have called Benghazi nothing more than a political game, by picking Cummings, they’re showing they still plan to play.

“Elijah has done a great job at very fundamentally changing the narrative,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), a member of the Oversight panel who has watched Cummings at work. “Darrell was given the charge of leading in the trenches, of taking on this president — and I think Elijah, working with Democrats, has managed to change that narrative, in many cases to be about Issa.”

The House GOP took the unexpected step recently of voting to create a special committee to further probe the controversial events in Benghazi. Democrats’ hopes of rendering the panel ineffective rest largely on Cummings’ shoulders.

Democrats don’t want an effective probe into the policy decisions that led to four American deaths in a terrorist attack on our consulate, and necessitated a military evacuation of Americans in the country that Obama supposedly liberated in a military adventure he refused to submit to Congress for approval? Good luck with that approach as news reports of the evacuation start appearing on American televisions.