There are standing FAST companies in the Middle East, Europe, and the Pacific region, as well as a number of teams on standby in the United States. The elements in Europe also have a historical relationship with posts in Africa and it is possible that some mixture of these Marines is now forward deployed from North Africa to Indonesia.
If the reaction to the U.S. government’s change in policy on Jerusalem proves to be too much for those teams to handle, the Marines also have dedicated crisis response elements for operations in Africa and the Middle East forward deployed in Rota, Spain and in Kuwait respectively. These Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Forces have MV-22B Osprey tilt-rotors and KC-130 aerial tankers to help rush additional personnel across those regions in an emergency.
The Marine team in Kuwait, which has also included at times AV-8B Harrier jump jets, F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets, and EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare aircraft, has been heavily committed to the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, though. It is unclear whether or not they are available for this new contingency.
In addition, after the Benghazi incident, the U.S. Army established rotating rapid response infantry companies for different global regions. These include the East Africa Response Force in Djibouti and another element forward deployed in Kuwait. On top of that, there are special operations forces positioned around the world that can quickly deploy to provide additional support if a crisis erupts. Commands can often call upon other permanently forward deployed and rotating ground forces to support contingency responses if absolutely necessary, as well.
If an evacuation of any of these sites became necessary, U.S. military personnel on the ground and in the air would be essential in moving American government officials and civilians to safety. These units would coordinate with the State Department’s own security personnel and its other assets, including its own Air Wing, which could provide additional helicopters or fixed wing aircraft. Private contractors working for U.S. intelligence agencies and other U.S. government organizations might end up in the mix, along with local security forces, as happened during the Benghazi incident.
It remains to be seen exactly what the U.S. president’s policy decision will be and what form the subsequent reaction will look like. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “warned [Trump] of the dangerous consequences such a decision would have to the peace process and to the peace, security and stability of the region and of the world,” Nabil Abu Rudeina, his spokesperson, said according to Reuters.
This is likely to be an understatement. Traditional Muslim American allies in and around the Middle East, including NATO member Turkey and key counter-terrorism partner Jordan, have already publicly voiced opposition to the plan. Jordan, which acts as custodian for Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem’s Old City has a particularly keen interest in avoid a unilateral move that puts the city inside Israel.
The decision could also create tensions with other important U.S. partners around the world, including non-Muslim countries in Europe who support a final and lasting peace settlement between Israel and Palestine. It is also almost certain that some of America’s biggest opponents on the world state, chiefly Russia and Iran, will seize on the decision in attempts to challenge American influence both in the Middle East and elsewhere.
It is possible that Terrorist groups such as ISIS and Al Qaeda and their global factions could decide to step up attacks on American troops, U.S. interests, and other targets linked to the United States around the world.
“He’s going to continue having conversations with relevant stakeholders, but ultimately he’ll make what he thinks is the best decision for the United States,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Dec. 5, 2017. “The president, I would say, is pretty solid in his thinking at this point.”
The reported prepositioning of the initial wave of U.S. military response forces, as well as potential plans to deploy more if necessary, would seem to suggest that Trump’s thinking is to go ahead with moving the Embassy to Jerusalem in spite of the obvious concerns.
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