Friday, February 25, 2011

State Dept Suspends US Embassy Operations in #Libya, Withdraws All Personnel

It's 3:17 pm EST. Just saw this tweet from the State Department spokesman:

PJ Crowley

A U.S. charter aircraft departed #Libya at 1:49 p.m. EDT with additional American and international citizens on board, bound for #Istanbul.   
about 1 hour ago  via web  

A short while ago, Reuters reported the suspension of embassy operation from the WH:

Fri Feb 25, 2011 2:43pm EST

The United States has suspended embassy operations in Libya and is moving forward with unilateral sanctions against the government of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Friday

Here is the full text of the announcement from the State Department:

"Given current security conditions in Libya, coupled with our inability to guarantee fully the safety and security of our diplomatic personnel in the country, the Department of State has temporarily withdrawn Embassy personnel from Tripoli and suspended all embassy operations effective February 25, 2011. The safety of the American community remains paramount to the Department and we will continue to provide assistance to the greatest extent possible through other missions."

Note that the State Department suspended operation but did not break diplomatic relations with Libya. Via Josh Rogin of The Cable:
"The flag is still flying, the embassy is not closed, but operations are suspended," said Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy. "We did not break diplomatic relations."

The Libyan embassy in Washington is still up and running, a State Department official said.

Interactions between State Department officials and the Libyan government continue. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Bill Burns spoke twice over the last two days with Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa and Assistant Secretary Jeffrey Feltman has spoken with Kusa several times, the State Department said.

The Times of Malta reported on the arrival of the evacuees at the port in Valletta:
The passengers were visibly tired as they disembarked at the Cruise Passenger Terminal but most were in good health and only a small number were given medical attention by medical teams on the quay. Officials from the Civil Protection Department were also present.

All passengers were offered food and drink as soon as they disembarked. Special attention was also given to children.

Veterinary Officials were also present since a number of pets were brought over by some of the families.

The Maria Dolores was chartered by the State Department, which has since announced that the US embassy in Tripoli has suspended operations.

Even as we think of the evacuees disembarking to safety in Valletta, we must also keep in our thoughts the local employees left in Tripoli.  The US Embassy in Libya has about 120 locally employed staff. I don't know if any of them/their families made it to Malta. Given that the embassy has only suspended operation, presumably some local employees will look after the USG facilities, but we have yet to confirm that. 

This post has been updated 2/25 @6:03pm EST

At a State Department briefing on suspension of operations at US Embassy Tripoli, the Under Secretary for Management, Patrick Kennedy confirms what we already presumed: "Our Libyan employees are still – were still – we did not break diplomatic relations. Our Libyan employees are still on the payroll and are still at the – working at the chancery."

They're on their own. 

This item above added at 2/25 @7:11pm EST


fourglobetrotters said...

Unbelievable. Just completely insane. I can't help but feel for my colleagues and their families. They can assume they've lost EVERYTHING. As soon as word gets out that we're gone, their houses will be looted.

And I can't imagine what the last few days were like. Closing an Embassy is insanely labor intensive. Destruction of classified materials, even with incinerators, takes FOREVER. I'm just...Wow.

hannah said...

I know the logistical and legal reasons... but it burns me to no end that the local staff was left behind. How many would have wanted to leave?

diplopundit said...

@fourglobetrotters: I was worried that GOL would not let them leave. I'm glad to see that the pets seems to have made it out with them, too. But you're right about their household properties. They'll be back in DC with one suitcase each. It is small consolation, but at least things are things and most can be replaced; not people. I hope you and your kids are holding up okay.

@hannah: Not sure leaving was even an option for them. Must be in the FAH, can't find the guidance in the public web. They're not only on their own; they might also become targets due to their relationship with the USG. And that's one crazy man up there.

Makes you wonder why USG could offer evac to 3rd country nationals but could not to local staff who worked for the USG.