WASHINGTON—The Pentagon activated a new quick-reaction force of U.S. Marines this week in the Middle East, building on an effort begun in the aftermath of 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, which killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos said about half of the 2,300 person force, to be based in Kuwait, was in place and would quickly be available to respond to any security or humanitarian crisis in the Middle East.
Although the new Kuwait-based reaction force was in the planning stages before the U.S.-led campaign against Islamic State militants began, Gen. Amos said the Marines there could be used, if needed, to reinforce the embassy in Baghdad, rescue downed pilots, or bolster the effort to advise Iraqi forces.
But defense officials said the most likely first uses of the new force would be to respond to crises and problems arising in other corners of the Middle East.
The new reaction unit, described by Gen. Amos in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, is the outgrowth of an effort to remake the Marine Corps into a global "911" response force.