The Pentagon said this morning that the USS Mesa Verde has arrived in the Persian Gulf to join the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush, destroyer USS Truxtun, and USS Philippine Sea.
“Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel ordered the amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde into the Arabian Gulf today. The ship has completed its transit through the Strait of Hormuz,” Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said today.
“Its presence in the Gulf adds to that of other U.S. naval ships already there — including the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush — and provides the commander-in-chief additional options to protect American citizens and interests in Iraq, should he choose to use them.”
The Norfolk-based USS Mesa Verde, bearing 550 Marines, could help evacuate Americans if necessary.
“USS Mesa Verde is capable of conducting a variety of quick reaction and crisis response operations. The ship carries a complement of MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft,” Kirby said.
“USS Mesa Verde is part of the USS Bataan Amphibious Ready Group, which departed Norfolk, Virginia, in February and is operating in the region on a routine deployment to support maritime security operations.”
Dozens of Marines have already arrived at the Green Zone in Baghdad to protect the U.S. Embassy.
“At the request of the State Department, the U.S. military is providing security assistance for our diplomatic facilities in Baghdad. A small number of DOD personnel are augmenting State Department security assets in Baghdad to help ensure the safety of our facilities,” Kirby said Sunday.
“The temporary relocation of some embassy personnel is being facilitated aboard commercial, charter and State Department aircraft as appropriate,” he added. “The U.S. military has airlift assets at the ready should State Department request them, as per normal inter-agency support arrangements.”
The State Department said late Sunday afternoon that the embassy “remains open and will continue to engage daily with Iraqis and their elected leaders – supporting them as they strengthen Iraq’s constitutional processes and defend themselves from imminent threats.”
“As a result of ongoing instability and violence in certain areas of Iraq, Embassy Baghdad is reviewing its staffing requirements in consultation with the State Department,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement. “Some additional U.S. government security personnel will be added to the staff in Baghdad; other staff will be temporarily relocated – both to our Consulate Generals in Basra and Erbil and to the Iraq Support Unit in Amman.”
“Overall, a substantial majority of the U.S. Embassy presence in Iraq will remain in place and the Embassy will be fully equipped to carry out its national security mission.”
In this video, Kurdish forces try to explain to a couple of Western tourists why they can’t drive through to Mosul, employing some grisly charades to explain that they’d end up dead if they went to the al-Qaeda-controlled city: