I thought the ordered departure would come quickly given how fast things are falling apart inside Libya. About an hour ago, the oil companies operating in Libya are reported to be making plans to evacuate their employees.
Today, a day after the State Department allowed the voluntary departure of dependents from Libya, it ordered the evacuation of all embassy family members and non-emergency personnel from the US Embassy in Tripoli. This means leaving Libya is no longer optional for those under chief of mission authority in the country. Below is an excerpt from the February 21 announcement:
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the potential for ongoing unrest in Libya. Violent clashes between protesters and security forces continue throughout Libya, including in Tripoli. Spontaneous demonstrations, violence, and looting are possible throughout the next several days. The Department of State has ordered all Embassy family members and non-emergency personnel to depart Libya. U.S. citizens outside of Libya are urged to defer all travel to Libya. U.S. citizens in Libya should minimize overall travel in-country, exercise extreme caution when traveling, and limit all travel after dark. U.S. citizens not departing Libya should make preparations to shelter in place. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning dated February 20, 2011.
U.S. citizens should exercise extreme caution, avoid areas where demonstrations are likely to occur such as government offices and public squares, and leave an area immediately if a demonstration begins. Demonstrations have degenerated on several occasions into violent clashes between security forces and protesters, resulting in injuries and deaths. The U.S. Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to avoid all demonstrations, as even peaceful ones can quickly become unruly and a foreigner could become a target of harassment, or worse. While demonstrations have not been directed toward Westerners, U.S. citizens are urged to remain alert to local security developments and to be vigilant regarding their personal security. U.S. citizens should take the appropriate steps to bolster their personal security. Again, there is no indication that Westerners are being threatened or targeted at this time.
Unannounced security checkpoints and road and airport closures may occur throughout Libya, changing traffic patterns and flight availability without notice. Due to ongoing internet and telephone service interruptions in Libya, U.S. citizens who require assistance in departing Libya should contact the U.S. State Department at the phone numbers below or via email at LibyaEmergencyUSC@state.gov.
The U.S. Embassy in Tripoli can be reached at +218 (0)21-337-3250 during business hours; the after hours emergency number for emergencies involving U.S. citizens is 091-220-5207. The Embassy’s website is at http://libya.usembassy.gov. Security updates can be found at http://libya.usembassy.gov/service/information-for-travelers/warden-messages.html. The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy is located in the Ben Ashour neighborhood on Jeraba Street behind the former Libyan-Swiss Clinic.
Read the whole thing here.
Even as the embassy orders the departure of its dependents and non-essential personnel, it must also attend to one of its core tasks - the evacuation of American citizens. I can't even begin to imagine the challenges of this kind of evacuation where dual nationals did not want to be identified with the Americans, or where US born nationals haven't had their passports renewed since they were kids. (The embassy's passport workload according to a published report consists of a continuing flow of first-time applicants who are the adult children of a group of over 6,000 Libyan students who studied in the United States between 1960 and 1980).
FSO and blogger, “Fawda Munathema” (or الفوضى المنظمة meaning “organized chaos” in Arabic) is in Tripoli and presumably will be expected to stay on as one of the essential personnel since he works at the Consular Section.
Our blog friend, TSB of The Skeptical Bureaucrat, writes:
"The U.S. Embassy is surely on lock-down today, and planning to evacuate. Just as surely, local security forces detailed to the embassy will be absent or ineffective, and our local employees will be sheltering at their homes. I'm certain we're doing everything possible to keep the entire embassy community safe while they ride out the storm of revolution."
Take care, everyone ... we're thinking of you!