US has arrangements to evacuate citizens in case of terrorism in Sochi
There are going to be about 10,000 American athletes and tourists who will attend the Sochi Olympics next month. In the event of a serious terrorist attack or immediate threat, the US government has arrangements to evacuate citizens if it becomes necessary.
But officials stress they have no specific evacuation plan for Sochi and have offered assistance to the Russians who have apparently turned us down flat.
The officials said on a conference call with reporters that no specific plans for Sochi had been drafted by the military.
"There's no Sochi Olympics evacuation plan on the shelf that we're ready to just pull off," one official said. "Our combatant commanders have on the shelf American citizen evacuation plans and general guidelines just as a rule. ... There's no request to have a specific plan to evacuate now, and if we're called on to do that in coordination with State Department, we'll be prepared to do it."
The administration officials emphasized that an evacuation of Americans might not require military assets, pointing to commercial or charter aircraft that could be available if needed.
Hagel said that the Pentagon was sending two ships to the Black Sea during the Olympic Games in order to be prepared for any contingencies in the event of a terrorist attack.
The U.S. will have diplomatic security and FBI personnel on the ground in Sochi, which administration officials said were there to provide assistance if needed.
The officials said that Russian officials had primary responsibility for security during the Olympics.
"We will have components on site - diplomatic security, the FBI and others - who do bring good capabilities should the Russians ever ask for them," one official said. "I'm not sure they will ... Russian capabilities are quite good as well."
The administration official said that U.S. officials were frustrated that "we don't know everything" when it came to terror threats, but that they were not frustrated with the Russian government.
Another administration official, however, said that U.S. officials learned of the new "black widow" threats to the Olympics through the media, and not in advance from the Russians.
This is what is making the hairs stand up on the back of my head when thinking about Russian efforts at security. Most security experts agree that Sochi proper and the venues where events will be held are probably safe. But what about the area around Sochi?
In an interview with Fox News National Security Analyst KT McFarland, former FBI officer Bill Daly called the threat of an attack in or near Sochi "credible."
"They are out there ... the to and from routes are vulnerable," Daly said of Sochi's remote location. "They [athletes] can be as vulnerable as some of our troops who were traveling in Iraq on some of these more remote routes," said Daly.
There are thousands of jihadists within a couple of hundred miles of Sochi and they've had years to prepare something truly spectacular - and deadly. The possibility of evacuating Americans should be more than just an idle exercise, and Hagel should get busy working on it.