As you may know, I served a joint assignment with the U.S. Marine Corps at Camp Lejeune where I became very competent with the planning and execution of Expeditionary Operations. A very integral part was the training and certification of the Marine Expeditionary Units (MEU) and how they earned their Special Operations Capable (SOC). One of the missions that a MEU trained for in order to receive the MEU(SOC) designation was NEO (Non-Combatant Evacuation Order) — meaning evacuating civilians, especially our U.S. embassies in the geographic area of responsibility in which they are deployed.
This is why when there are troubling situations, you always deploy the theater ARG/MEU (Amphibious Ready Group/Marine Expeditionary Unit) and they go through mission contingency prep standing by for deployment order. And if you recall, there were three naval warships off the coast of Yemen during the recent enemy terrorist — al Houthi — activity, awaiting orders to conduct NEO in Sanaa for our embassy personnel.
We were told that everything went according to protocol. Now it seems that was not the case — and we who have served know for certain that was not the case.
As reported by Catherine Herridge at Fox News, “Internal State Department emails appear to show “genuine panic” during last week’s evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Yemen.”
“After reviewing internal State Department emails, Herridge said that standard procedures to protect sensitive information were not followed during the hasty evacuation from Sana’a. She described panicked emails circulating at the highest levels of the State Department despite spokeswoman Jen Psaki downplaying the situation at her Feb. 11 briefing.”
“We re-evaluated, or evaluated, our security posture based on the uncertain security situation in Sana’a. That’s something that has been discussed for some time. As you know, we recently pulled down some staff, so this was a next step in that effort,” said Psaki.
“Herridge said that eight days before the evacuation, U.S. Ambassador Matthew Tueller, with the approval of Under Secretary of State Patrick Kennedy, ordered embassy staff to leave in place a main communication link with Washington in case they could not get out of the country.”
“When an embassy evacuates, or does a bug-out, all classified information is wiped and communications are disabled or removed and that did not happen in this case,” Herridge reported.”
Amazingly enough, the Marine Security Guards (MSG) were ordered to destroy their crew served and personal weapons. I wonder what happened to the classified material?
The mission of a NEO is to bring in MSG reinforcement in order to conduct a secure embassy extraction — as you know that did not happen. Why was it that a private airplane from Oman was landed to withdraw our personnel, including the MSG, from Sana’a? That’s not protocol, and it’s certainly not proper procedure, but it seems that’s SOP in this current administration.
Remember, this is the third U.S. embassy to be evacuated since 2010. And in the evacuation of the embassy in Libya, personnel drove out in vehicles to the neighboring country to the west and a contracted ferry evacuated personnel by sea.
“Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton reacted to Herridge’s report on “Happening Now,” saying he is “stunned” at what took place in Sana’a. “Yemen has been a very risky post for over a decade and the fact that they were still making it up as they went, that the plans were so haphazard at the last minute, I find inexplicable. We should be thankful that this didn’t turn into a tragedy,” said Bolton.”
“We’ve seen this before. After Gaddafi fell in 2011, Americans had to be withdrawn from Tripoli. Did we have the Navy do it? No, we had to rent a Greek ferry boat to come to Tripoli and take the Americans out. How many times do we have to have these near-misses on evacuations in non-permissive environments before we wake up that that this is very dangerous to the personnel involved?”
Something tells me you won’t see this covered by many other media outlets.
“Herridge said, according to another email, that the State Department in Washington needed to remotely access the system to delete files that were still in Yemen. She added, however, that six servers were left intact, including financial management records, passport information and visa applications. “This is the kind of personally identifiable information that could easily be exploited by terrorists,” said Herridge.”
This is an incredible breach of security protocols and we may never know if indeed all the classified data was destroyed or properly deleted.
You can just imagine if this kind of shoddy operation was done by a Republican administration — and yes, I would bring that out as well, fair and balanced. Sadly, there is a message sent to our enemies. That’s why, even in the face of withdrawal, you do it from a position of strength.
And if you need a reminder of what a NEO mission looks like check out the trailer from the 2000 movie, “Rules of Engagement” starring Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones — funny, it was a Middle Eastern Embassy evacuated.
Interesting, in the movie, the DC wonk tried to hang out a Marine commander. It is a great film, and very appropriate for this story, this time.