Marine Security Guards, U.S. Embassy Yemen and Weapons

On 11 February, the United States and several other countries closed their diplomatic missions in Sanaa, Yemen.  There has been some pretty harsh criticism of the way in which it was done, particularly regarding how the Marine Security Guards gave up their personal weapons before boarding the evacuation flight out of the country.  Further, the MSGs rendered their other weapons, rifles, shotguns, etc. inoperable before departure too.

There is no justification for any criticism.  The MSGs acted reasonably, logically and according to Standard Operating Procedures.  They should all be commended and cited for bravery under hostile conditions.  Their critics should think before they react.

Yemen EmbassyI realize that much of the criticism is being directed at the Obama administration and their continuing lack of strategic planning in the war against ISIS and Islamic extremism. Critics use the MSG weapon issue, unfairly, to highlight the Obama Administration’s foreign policy failures.  Yemen, touted by the State Department and others as recently as last fall as a great success in the fight against ISIS, turns out to be yet another miscalculation and misstep by the U.S.

The MSGs, however, did their job and from what my sources tell me, did it extraordinarily well.  They were not “forced” to surrender their personal weapons.  Nor were they forced to render their long guns inoperable.  This sort of procedure has been, for a good reason, part of Embassy evacuation plans for decades.

Also, and this is not something I am going to go into detail about for obvious reasons, but U.S. Embassy Yemen was not a “normal” U.S. Embassy.  It was more of a Forward Operations Base (FOB).  Some of the media has reported on this.  There were a lot more fighting forces there, with significant defensive weapons, than just MSGs with handguns and shotguns. All these weapons were either gotten out of the country or rendered useless.

Every Embassy has Emergency Action Plans that are developed at Post, approved by the State Department, and regularly exercised.  There are many parts to it including classified destruction, who leaves when (when conducting the evacuation in stages, like happened in Yemen despite what the media implies) and how to dispose of U.S. Government equipment including weapons.

The Embassy was not under attack when they evacuated.  From all accounts, the MSGs and the rest of the Embassy employees followed their Emergency Action Plan checklist.  I do not have first-hand knowledge of that particular checklist, but the list includes things like:

  • Destroying classified material and equipment
  • Destroying or rendering inoperable all weapons (which the media has reported was done)
  • Making arrangements for a caretaker, normally local Embassy employees, to maintain the building.
  • Making arrangements for the disposal of miscellaneous equipment (cars, trucks, etc.)

The media has reported on the rebels stealing Embassy vehicles once everyone left.  So what?  What else can be done with them?  They are just transportation.  Nothing special and certainly not worth the cost of transporting them out of the country by C-130!

Regarding the turn-over of personal weapons by the MSGs at the airport, after disabling them, that was a prudent and reasonable thing for them to do.  The Marines certainly would not give up their side arms until the last minute possible.  Unless it was a U.S. Military flight, and it was not, the legal and international problems with transporting weapons on board a commercial airliner nowadays generally makes it impractical, if not impossible, to do so.  So they destroyed a few 9mm handguns.  They at least did not end up in terrorists’ hands.

The MSGs performed well.  The State Department performed well.  Our diplomats were safely evacuated, under very difficult conditions, and no one was hurt.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Bill Gaskill

Mr. Gaskill has over 20 years of extensive international experience with the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, U.S. Department of State, followed by 10+ years in the corporate sector.During his career at State, he developed and led comprehensive security programs in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and Latin America.He was Chief of Security at five U.S. Embassies:Tel Aviv, Athens, Lima, Nicosia and Lome.He has worked in more than 144 countries and has an extensive network of global contacts.His areas of professional expertise include risk assessments, physical security, access control, guard force operations and management, counter terrorism, investigations, foreign security liaison, personal protection and Emergency Plans and Preparations.

As Vice President of a Security Fusion Center, Bill has provided risk management advice and direction to major Fortune 100 defense industry, ultra high net worth and other clients.

As Global Director for Security, Alem International, Bill planned and directed all facets of the security and risk mitigation strategies for the 2004 Olympic Torch Relay that took place in over 34 countries.

Bill was commissioned as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Officer in the US Army immediately after college.

Mr. Gaskill has a Bachelor of Science degree in Ancient History with a math minor from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.He has a current Top Secret/SCI clearance.He has professional fluency ratings in Spanish, Greek, Hebrew and French, and has a working knowledge of Russian.
Bill Gaskill
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