(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)
The United state’s airstrike campaign in Libya, which began in August, will officially end after Libyan forces in Sirte announce their victory against ISIS, said Jeff Davis, the Director of Press Operations at US Department of Defense.
On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the US Pentagon said that the final group of ISIS fighters had surrendered themselves to the Libyan brigades after being cornered in a small area in central Sirte for months.
However, Davis said the US will not officially end its military campaign in Sirte until the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) officially announces the victory.
“We’re not quite ready to call it,” Davis said. “We’ll wait for (the GNA) to call it, but that appears to be just about wrapped up.”
A recent statement released by the US expressed concerns regarding the regrouping of ISIS militants outside of Sirte.
“They are out in the desert, they are underground, they are blended into the population, and that’s going to continue to be a challenge for the Libyan government in the future,” said Davis.
On the other hand, General Ismaeil Al-Shukri, the Military Intelligence Chief for the brigades fighting in Sirte, said that reports suggesting that a number of ISIS fighters fled Sirte to later regroup is false.
The Military Chief said regional countries and those who have political or economic interest in Libya are sponsoring groups like ISIS.
“Preliminary investigations startlingly showed the involvement of international parties and ‘dubious stakeholders’ in supporting ISIS military presence in Sirte,” said Al-Shukri.
ISIS moved into Sirte, which had a population of 80,000, in 2015 and managed to establish a stronghold in the coastal city. ISIS had aims to expand its rule across Libya and eventually to Europe.
The terrorist group was able to make its way into Sirte after Libya fell into political chaos following the 2011 uprising that brought down the Gaddafi regime.