U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has authorized deployment of a Marine Corps fleet antiterrorism security team to Libya to protect U.S. citizens there and to secure the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said here Sept. 13.
During a Pentagon news conference, Little said Panetta strongly condemns the recent attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in the Middle East.
“The secretary extends his deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and to the entire State Department family,” Little said. “The department has been working with the White House and State Department to provide resources to support the security of U.S. personnel and facilities in Libya.”
Little said the Defense Department supported the evacuation of American personnel and casualties out of Libya and is supporting the repatriation of the remains of the four State Department personnel, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, who were killed in the attack late Tuesday on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.
Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey also have worked over the past 48 hours with combatant commanders throughout the region to conduct reviews of their force postures, he said. They also are working “to ensure that we have the flexibility to respond to requests for assistance or orders as directed by the president of the United States,” he added.
Little said the focus of the Defense Department is now on supporting whole-of-government efforts to provide security to American personnel in Libya and elsewhere, working closely with the State Department, “and then supporting any efforts that we may be called upon to assist in the effort to, as the president said, ‘deliver justice.’”
“The FBI and Department of Justice have opened an investigation into this tragic event,” Little said. “Obviously, we will cooperate fully if called upon to support their investigation.
“Rest assured that this department is going to work very closely with our interagency partners to help investigate [and], if we're called upon, to assist,” he continued. “And we will play our part in getting to the root of what happened.”