Boots on ground in Libya, but not for combat
A window in the U.S. embassy in Tripoli was shattered during a raid by pro-Gadhafi supporters last May
September 12th, 2011
02:08 PM ET

Boots on ground in Libya, but not for combat

By Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jill Dougherty in Tripoli, Libya and Pentagon Producer Larry Shaughessy at the Pentagon

For the first time since the fall of the Gadhafi regime, US military troops are in Tripoli, Libya. The Defense Department sent in a four-member team to accompany State Department personel returning to Tripoli to assess the damage done to the US embassy since diplomats left earlier this year, a Pentagon spokesman said Monday.

"As I understand the embassy was pretty well trashed, and their trying to go back in and see if that facility is still usable, and if it is what needs to be done to bring it back on line," said Capt. John Kirby, a spokesman for the Pentagon. A US diplomatic team currently is evaluating whether the embassy can be renovated and/or reconstructed or whether a new embassy will have to be built.

A CNN team, including Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jill Dougherty visited the Tripoli embassy on Monday and saw the extent of damage done during what one State Department official said was a 38-hour rampage by pro-Gadhafi suppoerters on May 1 and May 2. The CNN team saw two buildings which had been trashed, burned and ransacked. In one building the ambassador's office was stripped and vandalized.

The embassy had already been evacuated when it suspended activity in February after the revolution began in the spring. No classified information or sensitive materials were left behind. On the night of the attack the compound was protected by just five local guards who fled, the State Department official said.

The military assignment does not negate President Barack Obama's insistance at the begining of operations in Libya that the US will not deploy any U.S. troops on the ground" as the four-member team are for diplomatic security, not combat.

He said the four troops arrived in Tripoli over the weekend with the State Department team and consist of two troops who are "explosive ordnance specialist, because one of the concerns was whether there was any presence of any kind of munitions there at the site, or any kind of hazards in that regard," Kirby said.

The other two are "general security."

Kirby said the four troops were not Marines, who traditionally assist the State Dept. with embassy security, but he didn't say which branch of the service the troops are with or if they will be wearing their uniforms.

Kirby did hint that they would be armed.

"There are no other security personnel with them, they are equipped and prepared to provide for their own defense," he said.