Inherent Resolve - Libya
On June 13, 2015, US forces conducted an airstrike targeting Mokhtar Belmokhtar, an Algerian national who was the mastermind of the 2013 attacks in In-Amenas, Algeria. That 2013 attack resulted in the death of 38 civilians, including three Americans. On November 13, 2015, US forces conducted an airstrike in Libya against Wissam Najm Abd Zayd al Zubaydi, also known as Abu Nabil, an Iraqi national who was a longtime al-Qa'ida operative and who had assumed the role of a senior ISIL leader in Libya.
On 10 February 2016, US Coordinator of the Coalition against the Daesh Brett McGurk told the US House of Representatives Foreign Relations Committee the United States was concerned that Daesh in Libya could team up with Boko Haram in Nigeria to spread extremism across Africa.
On February 19, 2016 US warplanes attacked an Islamic State training camp in western Libya, near the border with Tunisia, hitting their main target and killing dozens of terrorist recruits. Defense officials in Washington said the airstrike most likely killed a senior figure in the Islamic State group, Noureddine Chouchane. “We feel confident this was a very successful strike,” Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook told reporters. Chouchane was linked to two major terrorist incidents in Tunisia last year: attacks on a museum in Tunis and a beach resort outside the capital, which together killed at least 60 people.
The Obama administration ruled out for the time being any second intervention in Libya, US Department of State spokesperson Mark Toner said in a briefing on 19 February 2016. "No one’s talking about a second intervention in Libya," Toner stated. Toner refused to acknowledge that US policy supporting the toppling of Libya’s longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi had been a mistake.
But Toner did admit that more than four years of anarchy since Gaddafi’s violent death had allowed Daesh in the Libya. "Due to lack of a unified government in Libya, it has led to some of these ungoverned spaces where groups like ISIS [Daesh] can establish a foothold," Toner noted.
The United States will continue conducting airstrikes in Libya when it sees opportunities to take out Daesh leaders and bomb camps, Toner also said. “We [the United States] have been very clear that as we have opportunities we are going to carry out airstrikes against those ISIL [Daesh] elements that are operating in Libya,” Toner stated.
According to a leaked memo written by King Abdullah II, Jordanian troops have operated alongside UK Special Air Service troops in Libya since January 2016. The memo was sent to US lawmakers by King Abdullah to brief them of Jordan's plans to embed special forces "with British SAS" in Libya. "Jordan is looking at al-Shabaab because no one was really looking at the issue, and we cannot separate this issue, and the need to look at all the hotspots in the map. We have a rapid deployment force that will stand with the British and Kenya and is ready to over the border into Somalia" reads the document, obtained by the Guardian in late March 2016.
In March 2016, US ambassador to Italy John Philips told an Italian newspaper that Italy could send up to 5,000 troops as part of a broader European force. “We need to make Tripoli safe and ensure that ISIS is no longer free to strike,” Phillips said. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi quickly shot down Philips’ remarks, saying conditions were not in place for an EU military intervention in what was once an Italian colony.
On APril 2016 British Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Crispin Blunt, accused Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond of failing to be “straightforward” about plans for the possible deployment of up to a thousand British troops. Hammond denied Britain is preparing such a deployment.
European Union foreign and defense ministers met 18 April 2016 in Luxembourg to discuss a plan to send security personnel to Tripoli to help train police and border guards for Libya’s new U.N.-endorsed unity government. The security mission would only go ahead if requested by the Libyan Government of National Accord. Its first phase was to be restricted just to the Libyan capital, Tripoli.
France, Italy and Spain urged their European partners to move the EU’s Mediterranean naval mission into Libyan waters, if requested by a new government in Tripoli. The move was aimed at stopping a new tide of migrants and uphold a UN arms embargo. “It is indispensable to ensure Libya’s stability, the security of Libyans and also its borders,” said French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, after a weekend visit to Tripoli.
The country’s putative Prime Minister Fayez Seraj had been reluctant to approve the security mission, fearing it will compound opposition to his government. Domestic foes argue the so-called unity government lacks legitimacy and has been foisted on the country by foreign powers.
“The only reason for having the Government of National Accord installed in Tripoli is to have legitimacy to intervene in Libya, that is the only reason why the GNA is there,” says Olivier Guitta, managing director at GlobalStrat, a security and Geopolitical risk consultancy. “The British, the French, the Americans, they all have special forces in Libya already. They want to increase them and have a much bigger operation.”
Western officials were hoping war fatigue, the allure of foreign aid and development money, and the growing threat of IS in the chaotic North African country will help to build momentum for the unity government.
The Obama Administration initially ruled out air strikes against Daesh elements other than those that posed an imminent danger to American forces. This policy changed in late July 2016. The air operation dubbed Operation Odyssey Lightning was limited to the UN-backed government's fight to retake Sirte from IS and would probably last weeks rather than months. A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Captain Jeff Davis, told reporters the U.S. had conducted five strikes 01 August 2016 and two so far 02 August 2016 in support of forces affiliated with the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA).
Strikes were conducted 02 August 2016 as part of Odyssey Lightning, the operation to eliminate the ISIL terrorist group and the threat they pose to Libya and the wider international community. The destruction of ISIL targets in Libya further limited the terrorist group's ability to project terror and conduct operations, officials said.
One of the tanks struck 01 August 2016 had been a “menacing problem” in the al-Dular neighborhood in southwestern Sirte. It had been used against civilians and had repeatedly beaten back advances by GNA-aligned forces. Strikes hit two T-72 tanks, an insurgent fighting position and two construction vehicles. The strikes 02 August 2016 hit an IS rocket launcher and a heavy equipment excavator.
Increased US airstrikes in Libya could be the start of an effort to smother the Islamic State terror group as it tries to cling to a key North African stronghold. US Africa Command announced eight new strikes 08 August 2016 against IS positions in Sirte, a key coastal city that has served as a base for the terror group’s operations. The US had carried out a total of 28 airstrikes against IS as part of Operation Odyssey Lightning, which began August 1 following a request from Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA). A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told VOA that US special forces are also in the area “doing some coordination,” though the official was unable to elaborate. USAFRICOM spokesperson Robyn Mack said the US effort is "limited to strikes and information sharing to support those strikes" at the request of the GNA. "As we have said, US personnel have periodically gone in and out of Libya to exchange information to strengthen the fight against ISIL in Libya and that will intensify under this new approach," Mack said.
The US, Britain and France have all had special forces on the ground in Libya in preparation for increased cooperation. But each country, as well as Italy, pinned any additional help to specific requests from the new Libyan government. Libyan officials may have been emboldened by the initial success of the forces loyal to the GNA, which cut the number of IS fighters in Libya from an estimated 6,000 to just 1,000, including several hundred still holed-up in Sirte.
The United States Africa Command concluded Operation Odyssey Lightning 19 Decembe 2016, following an announcement from the Libyan government of the end of offensive military operations in Sirte.The United States Africa Command concluded Operation Odyssey Lightning Dec. 19, following an announcement from the Libyan government of the end of offensive military operations in Sirte.
In partnership with the Libyan Government of National Accord, the operation succeeded in its core objective of enabling GNA-aligned forces to drive Daesh out of Sirte by conducting 495 precision airstrikes against Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices, heavy guns, tanks, command and control centers and fighting positions. In partnership with the Libyan Government of National Accord, the operation succeeded in its core objective of enabling GNA-aligned forces to drive Daesh out of Sirte by conducting 495 precision airstrikes against Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices, heavy guns, tanks, command and control centers and fighting positions.
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