Libya Embassy Evacuation Fallout

ABC News contributor Gen. James Cartwright (ret.) and the Carnegie Endowment's Frederic Wehrey on the evacuation of the Libyan embassy.
4:32 | 07/27/14

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Transcript for Libya Embassy Evacuation Fallout
Thank you, terry. More from general James cartwright. The former chairman of the join chiefs of staff during the ouster of moammar Gadhafi. And Frederick wehrey, who serveds a the U.S. Attache to that embassy in Libya. General cartwright. This is an extraordinary measure. How bad does the security situation have to be to get that order to shut the embassy down? Jenlly there generally, there are two criteria here. A direct threat to the embassy, which there may be. But we haven't heard that. Or the embassy is located in an area where the threat has gotten too great and collateral damage, what would happen here. A shell or a mortar ends up in the embassy compound and potentially kills someone. Clearly, this has been a measured approach. We've drawn down the embassy over the past few months. Down to a level where it's about 80 Marines and about 60 or 70 civilians. Clearly, the embassy's done the right thing. The state department. They've gone out, put a travel alert out. So no more people are coming in. Saying get out of Libya. If you're there, leave. And I should point out. You were the vice chairman. Not the chairman. I promoted you at the end. To do this, move that out. And you heard kind of hauntingly from terry at the end, our embassy is not only empty but unguarded. The job of the Marines that were there and the staff is to take out any sensitive material or equipment, which they did. And leave and -- that's where the term shuttering comes from. Shutter the embassy, with the intent to return. But it is unguarded. You don't know who will go in there. We saw the memorable scene in the movie, "Argo," as they were preparing in Tehran, burning the classified documents. Trying to get everything that could be taken that would be sensitive and destroy it. Is that what was going on in the final hours before the evacuation? Presumably. That's the standard procedure for doing these things. I think they had some warnings. Perhaps they transferred that material with them. Every embassy has an evacuation plan. They've shut down the embassy down there in Tripoli two times before. Walk us through what happens. You were there before it was shut down the last time. So what happens? How do you prepare for getting out and not knowing when you're going to return? The embassies have plans, evacuation routes. They can do it on the turn of a dime. They're going destroy that material. In the case of the embassy in Tripoli, it was drawn down. Staff had been evacuated in previous weeks. So it was really a skeleton crew. Not that many people to evacuate in the first place. The extraordinary thing is, you're evacuating the ambassador and others who remain. Because there's so much fighting at the airport, you can't fly them out. Not like in Vietnam. Flying them out from the embassy. They had to go out in a convoy through the area where the militia fighting is. How dangerous was that? Remember, conflict here. The rebels are coming from the east side of Tripoli, about 200 miles away is where they're based. The airport is well to the south. The evacuation route was to the northwest. It was thought out. There are other venues they could have used. They could have extracted them with helicopters. This looked like the safest route to go. And they were moving away from the threat. We heard extraordinary words last night from the top official at the Pentagon, general Flynn, about the broader threat from Al Qaeda. What the administration likes to call core Al Qaeda. The core is the core belief that these individuals. That's not on the run. It's not on the run. That ideology, sadly, it feels like it's exponentially growing. Quite a different message. The white house still continues to say core Al Qaeda is on the run. General Flynn says we're less safe now than we were two or five years ago. Do you agree with him? I would tend to agree with him. The national intelligence council indicated this type of what he's referring to, terrorism is on the growth. It's in the phase called franchising. Moving out across the globe. Because it's so diffused, it's more dangerous than in the past.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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