On Monday the Pentagon announced it is conducting airstrikes on the Islamic State around the Libyan city of Sirte. The strikes were personally authorized by Obama after consultation with Defense Secretary Ash Carter and senior military commanders.
“We don’t have an endpoint at this point,” said Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook, “but we hope that this doesn’t take a significant period of time.”
The Pentagon explained the air campaign will support Libyan Government of National Accord troops (GNA) reportedly attempting to drive IS out of the city located halfway between Tripoli and Benghazi.
According to Pentagon spokesperson Michelle Baldanza, the strikes are “consistent with our approach to combating ISIL by working with capable and motivated local forces.”
“GNA-aligned forces have had success in recapturing territory from ISIL thus far around Sirte, and additional US strikes will continue to target ISIL in Sirte in order to enable the GNA to make a decisive, strategic advance,” Baldanza added.
Earlier this year, Secretary of State John Kerry called for an exemption to a United Nations arms ban placed on the North African country.
US officials insist “Libyans want to have fresh weapons, as opposed to the flotsam and jetsam they happen to have around, in order to go after Daesh,” the Arabic name for the Islamic State.
UN and US Support GNA Effort to Control Libya
Following the US and NATO attack in 2011 and the assassination of Muammar Gaddafi, an interim government was formed in the war-ravage country under the auspices of the United Nations. The GNA was organized under the terms of the Libyan Political Agreement signed on December 17, 2015, after years of clashes between predominantly Misratan and Zintani led militias.
Military support for the GNA is aimed not only at ejecting IS from Sirte, but also removing the remnants of the National Salvation Government in western Libya. Strikes will likely also be aimed at the Islamist-backed government in Tripoli and other Islamic militias. In April the National Salvation government said it would “cease duties” as executive authority.
The United Nations recognizes the GNA as the legitimate government of Libya and supports its effort to gain control over the National Oil Corporation. The oil company accounts for around 70% the country’s oil output. Both the United States and the UN imposed sanctions on the company during the rule of Gaddafi.