(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)
The Libyan unity government in Tripoli (GNA) announced on Monday that the United States launched its first airstrikes on ISIS fighters in Sirte.
Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj said an aired speech, “the first American air strikes on precise positions of the Daesh (ISIS) organisation were carried out today, causing heavy losses… in Sirte.”
The Pentagon said that the US launched the attack on ISIS in Sirte after the GNA sent a request to the international community, and specifically to the US, for support in its battle to take out ISIS.
“At the request of the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA), the United States conducted precision air strikes against ISIL (ISIS) targets in Sirte, Libya, to support GNA-affiliated forces seeking to defeat ISIL in its primary stronghold in Libya,” said Peter Cook, the press secretary for the Pentagon.
US forces have previously attacked ISIS targets hitting an ISIS training camp in the outskirts of Sabratha in February and last November.
The US air strikes on Monday were able to take out a tank and other vehicles used by ISIS militants to attack civilians and local forces. Cook mentioned that the US will continue targeting ISIS fighters in Sirte but did not give any further information.
The airstrikes were authorised by President Barack Obama after the Pentagon made the recommendation as the airstrikes are “consistent with our approach to combating ISIL by working with capable and motivated local forces,” said Cook.
Cook added that “the US stands with the international community in supporting the GNA as it strives to restore stability and security to Libya.”
The GNA emphasized that the US air strikes were coordinated with the GNA backed forces fighting against ISIS and that no foreign troops will be fighting on the ground in Libya.
“This has allowed our forces on the ground to take control of strategic positions” said Sarraj, explaining that the military assistance from US forces will be “limited in time and will not go beyond Sirte and its suburbs”.
Italy has also supported the fight against ISIS in Sirte by sending medical aid for wounded fighters loyal to the GNA.
In response to the announcement of US airstrikes, the Italian foreign ministry said, “this took place on the request of the Government of National Accord, in support of forces loyal to the government, with the shared objective of contributing to the reestablishment of peace and security in Libya.”
In addition to medical aid, Italy is prepared to lead a team of international peacekeepers to Libya if the GNA approves.
The involvement of US forces in Sirte will be restricted to airstrikes as well as collecting and sharing intelligence with GNA forces.
The agreement between the GNA and the US ensures the US will provide the GNA with precise time and location of airstrikes before they take place.
GNA-loyal forces have lost about 280 fighters in the battle against ISIS in Sirte and over 1,500 fighter have been wounded.