WASHINGTON — The United States has moved military forces closer to Libya since the Benghazi attack so they will be ready to respond to threats against diplomatic personnel, a Pentagon spokesman said Monday.
“We are prepared to respond if necessary, if conditions deteriorate or if we were called upon,” spokesman George Little told reporters.
“Obviously we have moved assets and personnel,” he said, without offering specifics.
The US Benghazi mission came under attack on Sept. 11, 2012, by armed insurgents who set fire to the main consular facility and then attacked a nearby CIA annex. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed.
The Pentagon has since faced criticism by those who said it should have been able to more quickly mobilize forces to thwart the attack.
Little said the Pentagon had stationed additional military elements — aimed at protecting diplomats or helping evacuate them if necessary — at the NATO base in Sigonella, on the Italian island of Sicily.
He confirmed some of the troops had come from an air base in southern Spain, where 500 Marines were recently deployed along with MV-Osprey — a troop transport plane that takes off like a helicopter, without a runway — as well as with refueling aircraft.
On Wednesday, Washington reduced its embassy staff in Tripoli, saying the security situation had deteriorated as a result of the seizure of government buildings by former rebels.
Britain had taken similar steps after the April 23 car bombing at the French embassy, which injured two French citizens.
In recent days, several bombings targeting police in Benghazi again illustrated the growing insecurity in Libya, where authorities struggling to establish effective security forces are engaged in a standoff with armed militias.