US Embassy Beirut and US Consulate Adana (Turkey) Now on Departure Orders for Non-Emergency Staff and Family Members

— By Domani Spero

Update @ 10:21 am — US Consulate Adana:  We have been informed that the US Consulate in Adana is on “authorized departure” with leaving post voluntary for the non-emergency personnel and family members. Note that neither the US Embassy in Ankara nor the USCG in Istanbul is on this order.  So the “draw downees” from Adana, if there are any, potentially will not depart the country but will be evacuated to Ankara or Istanbul (evacuees from Lahore were sent to Islamabad after the recent closure of the consulate general in the city).

We understand that post did not request this departure status.  The concern we’re hearing is that because of Benghazi and the “abundance of caution” mandate, “we have people who have likely never been to Turkey, making decisions for post.”  Our source points out that Adana is not only home for the US Consulate but also home to Incirlik Air Force Base, a Turkish air base which hosts the 39th Air Base Wing to “support and protect U.S. and NATO assets and people throughout Turkey while providing a full spectrum of capabilities to the warfighter.” The US presence at Incirlik includes hundreds of Air Force personnel and family members. The base is located  a little less than 5 kilometers from the American Consulate. As of this writing, neither DOD or USAF has made any announcement about the departure of its non-emergency personnel and family members from Adana.  — end update

The State Department on September 6 issued a new Travel Warning for Turkey recommending that American citizens defer non-essential travel to southeastern Turkey and announcing the departure of non-emergency staff and family members:

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens traveling to or living in Turkey that the U.S. Consulate General in Adana has been authorized to draw down its non-emergency staff and family members because of threats against U.S. government facilities and personnel.  The Department of State recommends that U.S. citizens defer non-essential travel to southeastern Turkey.

On September 6, the Department of State permitted the drawdown of U.S. government non-emergency personnel and family members from the U.S. Consulate General in Adana, Turkey.  U.S. citizens seeking to depart Turkey are responsible for making their own travel arrangements. There are no plans for charter flights or other U.S. government-sponsored evacuations.

U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Turkey should be alert to the potential for violence.  We strongly urge U.S. citizens to avoid demonstrations and large gatherings.  Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence.  There have been no direct attacks on U.S. citizens.

Update @ 10:22 — US Embassy Beirut: As of this week, a reliable source told us that the State Department is deferring sending previously scheduled newly-assigned personnel to Lebanon. Unlike Adana which is on “authorized departure” Beirut is on “ordered departure” with leaving post mandatory for affected personnel and family members.  — end update 

The State Department also issued a new Travel Warning for Lebanon urging American citizens to avoid travel to the country and announcing the departure non-emergency personnel and family members from Embassy Beirut.

The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to Lebanon because of current safety and security concerns. U.S. citizens living and working in Lebanon should understand that they accept risks in remaining and should carefully consider those risks. On September 6, the Department of State drew down non-emergency personnel and family members from Embassy Beirut due to potential threats to U.S. Mission facilities and personnel. This supersedes the Travel Warning issued on April 1, 2013.

The potential in Lebanon for a spontaneous upsurge in violence remains.  Lebanese government authorities are not able to guarantee protection for citizens or visitors to the country should violence erupt suddenly.  Access to borders, airports, roads, and seaports can be interrupted with little or no warning.  Public demonstrations occur frequently with little warning and have the potential to become violent.  Family, neighborhood, or sectarian disputes often escalate quickly and can lead to gunfire or other violence with little or no warning.  The ability of U.S. government personnel to reach travelers or provide emergency services may be severely limited. 

The Fulbright and the English Language Fellow programs that provided grants to U.S. scholars to live and work in Lebanon during the academic year remain suspended because of the security situation and the increased possibility of attacks against U.S. citizens in Lebanon.

Embassy Bierut’s September 6 Security Message to U.S. citizens also says that  “the Embassy does not offer “protection” services to individuals who feel unsafe.  U.S. citizens with special medical or other needs should be aware of the risks of remaining in Lebanon given their condition and should be prepared to seek treatment in Lebanon if they cannot arrange for travel out of the country. U.S. citizens traveling or residing in Lebanon who choose to remain should be aware that the U.S. Embassy’s ability to reach all areas of Lebanon is limited.”

While the Security Message also notes that there are “no plans to conduct a U.S. government-sponsored evacuation at this time” it suggests that “U.S. citizens concerned for their safety should consider making plans to depart by commercial means”  as the Beirut International Airport is open and commercial flights are operating.

The US Embassy Lebanon evacuation in 2006 is still the largest U.S. government-facilitated evacuations in recent memory.  The Security Message points out that USG-evacuation for private Americans “occur only when no safe commercial alternatives exist.” Also that “evacuation assistance is provided on a cost-recovery basis, which means the traveler must reimburse the U.S. government for travel costs.”

We note that both these announcements are now using the term “draw down” to describe the reduction of personnel and family members at two posts.  A draw down can be both “authorized departure” (staff and family members have option to leave or stay) or ordered departure (leaving is mandatory).  Since commercial flights are still operating in both these cases, we are presuming, although we could be wrong, that the draw down for both posts are “authorized” at this time.

We anticipate that more posts will be evacuated sorry, will go on draw down as the march to bombing another country heats up.