US expands war on ISIS to Libya

The US army has broadened its war against the Islamic State terror group in the Middle East and resumed bombing ISIS targets in Libya.

The multiple airstrikes carried out by the US on Monday, which targeted an Islamic State (ISIS tank) and vehicles, were done at the request of Libya’s United Nations-backed government, which has been struggling to fend off an ISIS onslaught.

Fayez Serraj, the head of Libya’s presidency council, said in a statement that US Air Force warplanes attacked in Sirte on the Mediterranean, ISIS’ main stronghold in the wartorn country. He said the attacks caused “major casualties.”

The US has stepped up its efforts to curb ISIS’ expansion in the region, and specifically in Iraq, and Monday’s strikes were the first on ISIS in Libya since February.

US officials said they expect the air campaign to last for weeks, not months, and will not go beyond Sirte. No ground forces will be deployed in the battlefield.

“This is the time for the international community to live up to its promises to the Libyan people,” Serraj said.

Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook stated President Barack Obama authorized the strikes following a recommendation from Defense Secretary Ash Carter and General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

He said the attacks are coordinated with the Libyans and will last as long as the Libyans request.

Cook also said that US Special Forces have been routinely moving in and out of the country, meeting with Libyan groups and offering assistance in coordinating the battlefield.

Chaotic breeding grounds for Islamic terrorism

There are an estimated 6,000 ISIS terrorists in Libya, including some who have fled from Syria. ISIS is losing its grip in Libya as a result of pressure from local militias and the government.

Two weeks ago, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said ISIS in Libya is facing the “distinct possibility” of defeat.

Libya slid into chaos after the ouster of dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. The power vacuum left the country a prime breeding ground for militias and Islamic terrorists, including ISIS and al-Qaida affiliates.

Since 2014, Libya has been split between rival governments and factions based in the western and eastern regions, each backed by different militias and tribes.

The UN brokered a deal in December, which tried to mend the rift by creating a presidency council and a unity government.

Libya’s pro-government militias have been waging an offensive against ISIS since May.

By: Aryeh Savir
AP contributed to this report.