(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)
Tunisia has confirmed reports that the US military has been flying drones over the Tunisian-Libyan border to conduct surveillance mission of ISIS militants who might be crossing into Tunisia.
Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi stated that the operations conducted by the US military in Tunisia were requested by the Tunisian government.
The US surveillance operation was necessary for the defeat of ISIS and assist in keeping a watchful eye of ISIS militants who might attempt to cross into Tunisia, said the Tunisian president in a television interview that aired Tuesday evening.
Essebsi emphasized that the drones were unarmed and reiterated a previous statement that Tunisia does not have a US base. “Our agreement with the U.S. was to share intelligence information,” Essebsi said.
The presence of the US military in Tunisia has always been a sensitive issue for North African nation. Some consider US military presence a breach of sovereignty.
The US announced last month that it will be conducting surveillance operations along the Tunisian and Libyan border with planes taking off from a Tunisian air base, according to a US government source.
Now that ISIS’s stronghold in Libya is falling out of ISIS’s control, some fear that ISIS might consider heading towards Tunisia in an attempt to establish a base. Over the last two years, Tunisia has been a target of ISIS attacks carried out by militants trained in Libya.
“We do not have clear information, and we should act instead of waiting until another” attack takes place, said Essebsi.
The US is also involved in Libya’s fight against ISIS in Sirte, where the terrorist have been cornered into a small area in central Sirte. The US has been firing airstrikes at ISIS targets in Sirte since August 1 after the Libyan government made a request for aerial support.
According to Essebsi, Tunisia will be given surveillance drones after being trained by 70 US troops. The exact number of drones as well as the duration that Tunisia will have them for was not specified.