The Daily Beast reports: Under the watchful eye of a military drone and three F-16 warplanes flying protective cover, 158 U.S. diplomats and 80 U.S. Marines evacuated the American embassy in Tripoli, Libya, on Saturday. Although there was no specific threat targeting the U.S. personnel, fighting between rival factions in the Libyan capital is raging amid fears the North African country is headed irreversibly toward anarchy. U.S. warships were positioned off the coast and more contingents of Marines were flown to the immediate vicinity, ready to deploy if needed to protect the evacuation convoy.
The Tripoli airport has been shut down by combat between two of the country’s most powerful militias, and most of the airplanes there have been destroyed or damaged so the evacuation had to be carried out overland: a five-hour drive to neighboring Tunisia. Under orders from Washington, the convoy pulled out of Tripoli at dawn and made it to safety by mid-day. It is unclear when or if the embassy will reopen.
Libya has been flirting with civil war for months as local gangs, ideological militias, Islamists and hopelessly dysfunctional state institutions have vied topsy-turvy for control. But this week Libya’s capital was rocked by some of the worst violence since the 2011 uprising that led to the NATO-backed ouster of strongman Muammar Gaddafi’s ouster, and with no sizeable national security force of its own, the government of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani has been unable to halt the descent into chaos. The U.S. isn’t alone in pulling out. Amid the rising violence, the United Nations has evacuated staff and Turkey announced Friday it was shuttering its embassy. The UK urged British citizens to leave Libya. [Continue reading…]