Earlier today we reported that despite, or rather due to, all the confusing propaganda from either side, it was not exactly clear whether and how far away from Baghdad the ISIS offensive had been halted (if at all). It appears the confusion has also impacted none other than the US State Department, which moments ago announced it would evacuate an "substantial number" of the whopping 5,500 staff situated in the US embassy in Baghdad on the banks of the Tigris river, staff which incidentally is the largest of any US embassy. Additionally, the State Dept said that some additional U.S. govt security personnel will be added to Baghdad staff as result of instability and violence in certain areas of Iraq.
According to the NYT, The exact number of people being evacuated was not clear Sunday. The embassy would remain open, a person familiar with the planning said, and much of its staff of about 5,500 would stay in Baghdad. The American government is expected to call the move a relocation, suggesting that it is a temporary precaution, the person said.
Many staff members who are leaving will be flown to Amman, Jordan, where they will continue their work at the embassy there. Not Benghazi? Oh wait, what difference does Benghazi make.
Others will be shifted from Baghdad to consulates here in Erbil, in the northern Kurdish region, and in Basra, in the south, which are not now under threat by the militants.
Other Americans in Iraq, particularly contractors working for companies that had been training the Iraqi military on weapons systems purchased from the United States, have already been evacuated from the country.
President Obama, on top of things, has said he is weighing a range of actions to help the Iraqi government turn back the insurgents, including airstrikes or other military aid. For now, however, as we reported last night, he is in Palm Springs hobnobing with the local donors, and looking at potential home purchases once his second term ends - the closer to the local golf courses, the better.
And in other news, to make the evacuation as seamless as possible and as we reported last week, the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush and two other U.S. Navy ships arrived in the Persian Gulf Sunday, as Iraqi troops mobilized to defend their country from a wave of Sunni insurgents taking over cities, NBC News reported. The USS George H.W. Bush was ordered to the Persian Gulf Saturday to protect American interests in the region.
Meanwhile, at least 15 people were killed and more than two-dozen were injured in explosions in Baghdad on Sunday, Iraqi police and hospital officials told the Associated Press. It was unclear if these were related to the ISIS offensive, and if, as unconfirmed reports on Twitter have suggested, ISIS advance forces have already entered the capital's neighborhoods.