Global Independent Analytics

U.S. Special Forces take the fight to ISIS in Libya

U.S. is operating on the ground and over Libya as the West moves to boost security operations in the country to bolster Libya's desperate fight against ISIS

Nick Paton Walsh for CNN reports: Surveillance flights over the country's 2,000-kilometer (1,240-mile) coast have been in operation from the remote Sicilian island of Pantelleria for over a year, and Special Forces have recently increased their presence on the ground. Witnesses and Libyan officials told CNN they are in evidence near the city of Misrata, with an estimated dozen soldiers operating out of a base near the city.

Recently Pentagon officials have acknowledged the U.S. presence in Libya. The officials admitted groups of Special Forces were "meeting a variety of Libyans." The fighters are reported to be in action around the capital Tripoli, as well as Misrata and the east region of the country.

The U.S. administration only publicly acknowledges groups that are believed to have the rights to govern the country: the Government of National Accord, led by Fayez al-Sarraj and recently installed by the United Nations. However, the presence of U.S. special forces only proves that America retains wider private contacts.

It remains to be seen what aim the U.S. special forces are pursuing in Libya, as airstrikes and other raids have been limited. But they join an increasingly loaded Libyan battle against ISIS, who are now evaluated to control about a tenth of the coastline.

As reported by the Misrata militia, ISIS’  attacks caused substantial damage in the town of Abu Grein, killing about a dozen people and injuring 110. The attacks -- the worst ISIS have thrown in months -- caused Misrata to declare a state of emergency.

ISIS is believed to be concentrating some of its efforts on Libya as it falls under pressure in Iraq and Syria. While the oil-rich country does not have a ready Sunni-Shia ethnic divide for ISIS to utilize, its disorder and a ready supply of jihadists from Africa and neighboring Tunisia has made it very appealing to the group.

ISIS is estimated to have about 4,000 to 6,000 fighters in the country, as reported by the U.S. officials, and there have been repeated records of top ISIS chiefs being sent from the Middle East to manage their growth there. The Western response to this threat -- so close to Europe's southern Mediterranean shores -- has been slowed by the chaos in Libya's crippled institutions.

 

By Stefan Paraber for GIA.

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