President Obama and White House aides sought to reassure the nation that they have a handle on the security of U.S. diplomatic posts in Egypt just days after an American student was killed during protests in Cairo.
The attacks on the the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya last September are still fresh in people’s minds as Congress continues to investigate why the State Department failed to beef up security before the deadly assault that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, and if the Obama administration tried to mitigate blame for it afterward.
With these factors in mind, this weekend Obama said his most urgent priority is protecting U.S. diplomatic posts in Egypt.
“Our most immediate concern with respect to protests this weekend have to do with out embassies and consulates,” Obama told reporters traveling with him in South Africa, where he is on a weeklong trip. “We have been in direct contact with the Egyptian government.”
The Obama administration has taken “additional security precautions” and has been in contact with the political and military leadership in Egypt, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters Sunday.
“In terms of contingencies, we’ve basically taken the appropriate action to ensure that our embassies and consulates have additional security measures and that our personnel are taking additional security precautions,” he said.
Rhodes also shot down what he said was an inaccurate report that the U.S. was planning some type of military deployment to Egypt.
“That is not the case,” he said. “We believe we have significant security measures in place and that our civilians who are serving in Egypt can take additional precautions. But we are watching the situation very carefully.”
Andrew Pochter is the U.S. citizen killed on Friday in Alexandria, Egypt, the site of the anti-government protests. Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, identified him as a 21-year-old student from Chevy Chase, Md.
The protests in Egypt have intensified in recent weeks in anticipation of the June 30 one-year anniversary of President Mohammed Morsi’s election.