An opponent of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi chants slogans July 3 during a protest outside the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt. (Khalil Hamra / AP)
A contingent of about 200 Marines at Sigonella, Italy, part of a new fast reaction force for rescue missions in Africa, has been put on alert for possible action in Egypt.
With Egypt teetering on anarchy, the Marines in Italy — who are part of Marine Air Ground Task Force Crisis Response, based at Moron, Spain — could be called on to swoop in and help secure the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.
“This is certainly one of the possibilities of the (task force),” Marine Capt. Eric Flanagan, a spokesman based at the Pentagon, said in an email. “The unit is always on standby with a short tether.”
The Egyptian military has given President Mohammed Morsi an ulitmatum: Yield to demands from millions of protesters or step aside. It’s unclear what Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, would have to do to satisfy the demands of protesters or the military. His Islamist Muslim Brotherhood movement has become increasingly unpopular in Egypt as security and the economy decay there.
The Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force for Crisis Response was formed after an attack on a U.S. consulate and a CIA outpost in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012. Four Americans were killed in that attack, including the ambassador.
In mid-May, just weeks after the task force arrived in Moron, about 200 of the 550 Marines were moved to Sigonella in case they were needed to respond to an escalating crisis in Libya.