By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 14, 2012 – A Marine Corps fleet antiterrorism security team, called a “FAST team” is now on the ground in Yemen to help with security at the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said today.
This is the second FAST team, consisting of about 50 Marines, authorized by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta to bolster security at U.S. diplomatic installations in the past two days. The move comes a day after protesters attacked the U.S. Embassy in the Yemeni capital.
The first team was sent to Libya after the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi that killed four State Department employees, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens.
The FAST platoon was dispatched, Little told reporters here, “partly in response to events over the past two days at our embassy in Yemen, but it’s also in part a precautionary measure.”
Protests began earlier this week in Libya and at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo over what was reportedly an American-produced film posted on the Internet considered insulting to the Prophet Mohammed. Since then, there have been reports of protests in other countries in the Middle East, including at the U.S. embassy in Tunisia and the German Embassy in Sudan.
Travel alerts posted on the State Department website are advising Americans to exercise caution because of possible demonstrations elsewhere, including in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Jakarta, Indonesia.
About ongoing protests in Cairo at the U.S. Embassy there, Little said “the situation hasn’t to this point necessitated a change in security posture. Naturally, we stand ready to support our State Department colleagues if a request for additional military support comes through.”
In Afghanistan, protests so far have been peaceful, he said.
“We’re gratified based on what we know now,” Little said, “that religious leaders have appealed for nonviolent protests … so for at the moment we have not seen outbursts of violence against our diplomatic installations or military bases in Afghanistan.”
In Libya, he added, “we are continuing to investigate what happened and DOD will do its part, working with our partners across the government, to determine what happened and, if asked, support the president’s call to deliver justice.”
He said the department is in communication with State Department colleagues to discuss military support to embassy and consulate security around the world, but that it is premature to reach final conclusions about the recent violence against U.S. diplomatic posts in Libya, Cairo and elsewhere or about who is responsible.
“I really am asking respectfully for a little bit of patience as we work through this,” Little said. “It’s important to get this answer absolutely correct, and that is the goal of this government -- to make sure that when a call is made that it’s accurate and complete.”