The self-contained units are on 24-hour standby and include air, ground, logistics and command elements. Beyond being able to reinforce embassy security, the units can use their aircraft to evacuate civilians, rescue downed aviators and come to the aid of countries struck by humanitarian or weather-related disasters.

The deployment is no accident, a former senior administration official told POLITICO. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was a heavy critic of the Obama administration’s handling of Benghazi and especially of his predecessor Clinton, has been concerned that a similar attack could bring the Trump administration its own version of the scandal.

“Pompeo has long dreaded having a Benghazi-type event on his watch and would be horrified if Americans died in a similar event, in part because of his criticism of Hillary Clinton during Benghazi,” said the former senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.