(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)
The Obama administration announced that US Special Operations forces have been stationed at outposts in eastern and western Libya since 2015 after ISIS militants established a stronghold in Sirte in June of last year.
According to the Washington Post, the Pentagon has been working on plans to aid Libyan forces in their offensive against the extremist group, and have employed two teams of about 25 troops to the cities of Misrata and Benghazi.
This action taken by the United States demonstrates the West’s growing concern of the terrorist group’s powerful Libyan branch. The ISIS branch in Libya is estimated to have over 5000 fighters based in the coastal city of Sirte, which is just a few kilometres from Europe’s coastlines.
Other western countries, including France and the UK, have also stationed elite forces in Libya in order to monitor extremist activity and to help guide Libyan forces in their military operations against ISIS.
According to the Washington Post, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook stated that US military personnel had been regularly meeting with a variety of Libyans “in an effort to help them reestablish a safe and secure environment.”
The US has already conducted two airstrikes against ISIS targets in Libya and expected to conduct more strikes as potential targets are identified.
Along with other western leaders, the US is hopeful that the establishment of the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) is Libya’s best solution at uniting the fractured political and armed groups in the country under a central military command to finally eradicate ISIS.
A senior US official said that local factions were being asked to coordinate their efforts in the fight against ISIS, “We have been working with our allies to urge focus on ISIL and not fueling rivalries across the country.” ISIS militants have taken advantage of Libya’s lack of a unified army to expand their operations in the country.
In addition, the United States has expressed that it was ready to loosen the arms embargo placed on Libya to help the GNA in their fight against ISIS.
Discussions to loosen the embargo will take place during a meeting about Libya between US Secretary of State John Kerry and other regional powers in Vienna on Monday.
The United States plans on intervening on behalf of Libya’s Presidency Council to establish some exemptions to the arms embargo so that the Libyan Army can have the weapons necessary to defeat ISIS.
On Tuesday, the UN-backed GNA announced that its military forces were preparing to advance on ISIS held Sirte and asked the international community for logistical support to aid in their military campaign against the extremist group.
A surprise ISIS suicide attack at the Abu Grein checkpoint, which saw five dead in early May, prompted the GNA’s Presidency Council to establish a military campaign against ISIS based in the city of Misrata. Since then Libyan forces were able to regain control of the Sadada checkpoint after another ISIS suicide attack left more than four soldiers killed on Wednesday evening.
The commanders of the joint military operation, called “Albinyan Almarsos,” announced that they were moving toward the Abu Grein checkpoint, which was overrun by ISIS forces last week.