More than 200 years ago, Marines made a name for themselves fighting the Barbary pirates at the shores of Tripoli. Could they be returning soon?
The question at least needs to be asked, in light of the Pentagon’s acknowledgement today that they are repositioning naval forces off the coast of Libya — including its capital, Tripoli — as the security situation in the north African country continues to crumble.
Conceptually, it’s a made-for-Marines special if ground operations are deemed necessary. Marine expeditionary units aboard Navy vessels are typically among the first involved in humanitarian operations, evacuations and other actions needed in a crumbling country.
There’s a catch, however.
The nearby 26th MEU, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., already deployed much of its ground combat element — Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines — to Afghanistan in January. There are certainly still able-bodied Marines with the MEU aboard the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge, but the scope of what they can do might be be limited.
Pentagon spokesman Col. David Lapan said the military is repositioning forces to provide flexibility as options are considered, but declined to provide specifics. A spokesman for U.S. Central Command, Army Lt. Col. Mike Lawhorn added similar sentiments.
Let’s not forget the other operations that could be called for, however. If airlifts are needed, there are still plenty of Navy and Marine aviation assets deployed with the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group. There also are Marines stationed in northern Africa in Djibouti, where Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa is based. Elements of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464, out of New River, N.C., are currently based there with CH-53E heavy-lift helicopters.