Relying on military rapid response units to save diplomats is a forlorn hope

Thursday, July 15th, 2021

RAND examined 33 successful seizures of Western embassies between 1979 and 201 and found that groups that successfully seized Western embassies typically accomplished this in two hours or less:

The majority of attacks were accomplished in two hours or less, while 90% were finished in six hours or less.

The study strongly suggests that relying on military rapid response units to save diplomats is a forlorn hope. “In none of the cases that we examined did planned response forces, particularly In Extremis Response forces (such as a Commander’s In Extremis Force, Crisis Response Force, Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team platoon, or other U.S.-based Special Operations Forces) arrive before the attack culmination,” the study noted.

In contrast, security forces already on the scene did offer some protection. “Marine Security Guards (MSGs), Bureau of Diplomatic Security personnel, other routine security augmentation forces, and local security forces did play significant roles in defending against many of the attacks we analyzed,” said the study.

Embassy seizures were usually preceded by warning signs. Nearly 60% of attacks generated risk indicators two or more days in advance. “We also found very few cases in which there was advance warning of more than 30 days — only five times out of all the cases studied, or exactly once per decade,” RAND noted. In only 12.5 % of cases did an attack occur without prior warning.

And as embassy defenses improve, attacks are taking longer to succeed. “In the past decade, the median attack duration was four hours, and the average was 4.8 hours,” RAND said. “The lengthening of this duration could offer wider windows of opportunity to intervene.


  1. Bob Sykes says:

    So, you’re going to fly from Kuwait or Bahrain or Qatar all the way across Iran or Pakistan without permission, hundreds of miles into Afghanistan to get to Kabul, land on the embassy yard or roof, extract a few hundred people, fly back across Afghanistan, Iran or Pakistan to Kuwait or Bahrain or Qatar. That’s a round trip of 2,200 miles needing 15 hours of air time by helicopter, plus landings in Iran/Pakistan for refueling, plus time on the roof.

    ¡¡No hay problema!!

  2. Handle says:

    The best possible case would be battalions of soldiers already mobilized and deployed for the purpose and being merely a few blocks away. You already know where I’m going with this.

    On 1/6, it took so long just to get approval to put the National Guardsmen in the way of the cosplay larpers that they *still* didn’t show up until it was all over and people left mostly on their own initiative after the crowd-energy has dissipated and they got hungry and sleepy and stuff. They weren’t there to protect some no-name State department civil servants in some faraway s**thole country either, but members of congress in the capitol.

    So, yeah, if conditions are not anywhere near that ideal, then the situation really is hopeless.

  3. Gavin Longmuir says:

    Handle, you win the award for the smoothest & funniest satire in the last 6 months! Congratulations!

  4. Bruce Purcell says:

    Northcote Parkinson, I think in his Evolution of Political Thought, said it was decisive whether the troops were willing to fire. So, for example, the French King had Scottish Archers around because they were more willing to kill Frenchmen. A multicultural America isn’t willing to just shoot down foreigners.

    We could set claymores in every embassy wall, but are we willing to fire?

  5. Gavin Longmuir says:

    It is not just whether the soldiers are prepared to open fire — whether on enemy terrorists or on their fellow citizens exercising their Constitutional right to petition the Government for redress of grievances. It is also whether the Powers That Be trust the people to whom they have given weapons.

    Apparently, the reason the 1983 truck bombing of the Marine base in Lebanon could not be prevented by the guards was because they had not been issued ammunition for their fearsome-looking guns.

    I would bet that the National Guard brought in to surround that building belonging to the people of the United States were similarly limited to using their empty guns as expensive clubs. Our Best & Brightest are obviously dumb & arrogant — but they understand enough history to know that an armed Praetorian Guard would soon replace all of them.

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