Friday 2 December 2016

Libya is the new front in the battle to defeat Isil and safeguard the security of Europe

Andrew Hammond

Published 03/08/2016 | 02:30

An Isil unit. Photo: Reuters
An Isil unit. Photo: Reuters

The Pentagon confirmed on Monday that US forces had conducted air strikes against Isil in the Libyan coastal city of Sirte. The action may be the first move in a sustained international offensive against Isil outside of Iraq and Syria.

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The US strikes were conducted after a request from the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), which has been engaged in battles with Isil in Sirte since May. While the attack is not the first time that US warplanes have bombed Isil in the country, Monday's move could prove more significant in that it signifies a deepening of US and wider Western commitment to buttressing the Libyan administration, militarily, politically and economically.

At a time when the GNA is trying to restore order in the country, there are growing international concerns that Isil may be establishing a stronghold there. US intelligence estimates, for instance, indicate that the number of Isil members in Libya has probably doubled to between 4,000-6,000 in the last 12-18 months, with growing evidence that a significant number of these terrorists are travelling from Iraq and Syria where, because of offensive operations from the coalition forces, Isil fighters are believed to be at the lowest levels for at least two years.

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