A detachment of Marines typically guards the interior of U.S. embassies and consulates, but none was at the State Department compound in the Libyan city of Benghazi on Tuesday when protesters breached the security perimeter resulting in the killing of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.
Marine security detachments teams at embassies and consulates typically include a minimum of six Marines. Pentagon Press Secretary George Little confirmed Thursday that there were Marines guarding the embassy in Libya's capitol Tripoli. He also said there were also Marines in place at embassies in Yemen, Tunisia and Egypt — other countries that underwent revolutions last year.
The State Department has the lead on embassy security around the world, he said.
Officials have not specified how many of the U.S. personnel at the Benghazi compound were regional security officers. Regional security officers serve as advisers on building issues and coordinate a mission's security program.
At the time of the attack, officials said there was only one regional security officer inside the main building with Mr. Stevens.
Mr. Little said the Defense Department was working closely with the State Department in the region — including Yemen, Egypt and Afghanistan — to ensure all missions have "any necessary resources" given the potential for further protests in the coming days.
In addition, he said, Defense Department leadership — including Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey — has worked closely with combatant commanders to review U.S. force posture in the region, and "to ensure that the military had the flexibility to respond to requests for assistance or orders as directed by the president of the United States."
Two ships were sent to Libya's coast this week, but so far, have not been assigned to a specific mission, Mr. Little said.
Part of the reason there may not have been Marines at the Benghazi compound is because it is not an embassy or consulate, but a "diplomatic mission."
In some conflict zones, State Department officials work in buildings other than embassies or consulates in order for officials to conduct what State Department officials call "expeditionary diplomacy," or establishing an initial presence on the ground and building that relationship with locals from the ground up, as in the case of Libya.
Senior administration officials said the facility in Benghazi was "an interim one" that the State Department had acquired before the fall of Libyan dictator Muammar Qadhafi, consisting of a main building and several ancillary buildings as well as an annex a bit further away.
The Pentagon has deployed a 50-man Marine platoon to Tripoli, called a Fleet Anti-Terrorist Security Team (FAST), to protect U.S. citizens in the country and the embassy in Tripoli. At this time, there is no departure date set.
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