Saturday, January 29, 2011

No Evacuation Yet for US Embassy Egypt ... Um, Why Not?

Yesterday, AFP reported the return of American dependents to US Embassy Tunis:

The US State Department announced Friday it is allowing US government dependents to return to Tunisia as a wave of anti-government protests there eased.

"The unrest that had spread to Tunis and all major cities has diminished and public order has returned; however, spontaneous and unpredictable events continue to occur," the State Department said in an updated travel alert.

"The Department of State has lifted authorized departure status and allowed US government dependents to return to Tunisia," it said.

The embassy announced the evacuation on January 16 with a chartered aircraft transporting departing personnel to Rabat, Morocco the morning of January 18, 2011.

FS blogger, Four Globetrotters who was evacuated from Tunis with her kids writes

Tuesday the kids and I drove ourselves to the Embassy by way of six military checkpoints, one particularly eager young soldier decided I was a threat and pointed his rifle at my head as I stopped the car, and the kids and I got on the plane with a few other families for our flight to the safehaven.

Meanwhile over at the current center of the storm in Egypt, we have yet to hear any news of US Embassy evacuation. reported on January 29 that several Arab countries including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and Jordan have organized flights to take their nationals and families of diplomats out of Egypt because of the violence and unrest roiling the country.

The Israel Foreign Ministry today evacuated the family members of diplomatic personnel serving in the embassy in Cairo, but stopped well short of pulling out all diplomatic personnel.  Reuters reported that the  foreign ministry said there were no plans to remove diplomats stationed in Egypt. Previous reports that the embassy had been shut down were denied, with a spokesman saying the offices were closed for the weekend.

On Friday, Fox News blog reported about the if of the evac:

Pentagon officials are right now watching very carefully the developments on the streets of Cairo. I am told from a senior defense official that if the U.S. Embassy needed to be evacuated, the Egyptian military would be involved and there are contingency plans for such that have been dusted off.

However, the reports from the Embassy in Cairo suggest that no call has yet been made to evacuate the embassy and that the guidance as of 9:30 am EST is that such a move is unnecessary at this time. The State Department has not called for the dependents of those serving in the U.S. Embassy to be evacuated.

A follow up report today also in Fox New, citing a senior US defense official says that the Egyptian military is protecting the U.S. Embassy as protesters continue to take to the streets in opposition of President Hosni Mubarak:
The official said the U.S. Embassy so far has not made a request for an evacuation, though the United States has evacuations plans at the ready for its embassies around the world.
A full evacuation would be a daunting task in the middle of such turmoil. There are 50,000 Americans estimated to be in Egypt, but the official said a full evacuation could cover as many as 85,000 people, some of whom are third-party nationals which the United States is "responsible for."
The USS Kearsarge is the closest Navy vessel in the area, but it has not been ordered to move into help provide support for the evolving situation in Egypt. mentions the USS Ponce in addition to the Kearsarge:
The U.S. Marines have a pair of warships -- the USS Kearsarge and the USS Ponce -- just hanging around the southern end of the Red Sea waiting to see if they're needed to rescue U.S. diplomats and citizens from Cairo. They're half of the Marines' 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, a mini-armada that recently dispatched 1,400 of its 2,000 Marines into Afghanistan. But they've got a "fair number" of helicopters, and Marines, still aboard. "They're not in the on-deck circle yet," a military official says. "They're kind of getting ready to come out of the dugout." Meetings in Washington through Friday night and into the weekend will determine if they're ordered to carry out a NEO -- a non-combat (but potentially dicey) evacuation operation.

More on the Egyptian forces guarding the foreign mission from Ynet News:
Egyptian security forces are guarding the US and British embassies for fear that incidents such as those which occurred in Iran in 1979 would recur in Cairo.

In Tunisia, five people were killed and 800 wounded when demonstrators clashed with police earlier this month.

The State Department evacuated US Embassy Tunis four days after Ben Ali departed the country.

Egypt, of course is not Tunisia. With a population at about 82 million, is covers a third of the Arab world. The estimated death toll from the protest is 91 with about 1,000 injured. We suspect that we may not know the real numbers for quite a while.

So, we're curious -- this is now Day 6 of the Egyptian protests --  how much more violence on the streets of Egypt should we see before the evac of non-essential personnel and dependents happen? 


A Daring Adventure said...

Thank you so much for compiling all of this information together and writing about this frightening situation. I'm so worried about all of our colleagues!

Stephanie said...

I haven't read or seen anything official, but ACS folks here are scurrying around today (Sunday) to assist with Egypt.

Domani Spero said...

@ ADA - Thanks!

@Stephanie - Thanks for the note. Just saw the evac announcement. Stay safe!