For the first time, U.S. and Libyan officials have confirmed that U.S. Special Operations were on the ground fighting Islamic State militants in Libya.
Due to the fact that the mission was not yet made public, sources that spoke on condition of anonymity told The Washington Post that the roles of these operators were limited in scope to merely assisting Libyan forces by exchanging intelligence information to coordinate American airstrikes.
Stationed with British forces at a joint operations center near the coastal city of Sirte — ISIS’ stronghold in North Africa — these elite servicemembers were also reported to have constructed small outposts in the area to establish friendly relations with the locals.
This decision from the Pentagon comes on the heels of the commencement of airstrikes on ISIS’ position in Sirte. The Washington Post reports that since these airstrikes received approval last week, almost 30 militants have been killed in addition to the destruction of numerous ISIS-owned fighting positions and vehicles.
In a quote from the article, European Council on Foreign Relations expert Mattia Toaldo explained that the U.S.’s role in Sirte was different than elsewhere in Libya because the numerous political factions wouldn’t mind an intervention against ISIS’ spread.
“As long as they keep this low profile … the risks both for the US and for the Libyan government are quite low,” he stated.
Since their arrival in Libya in 2014, ISIS militants in Africa have imitated their Middle Eastern counterparts through their brutal over-the-top methods of garnering attention. To combat their spread, other NATO nations, such as France, have also been reported to have deployed special forces operators into the region earlier this year.
Western nations have started deploying special operators against ISIS in greater numbers recently. Newly published photographs show British special operators close to the ISIS front lines in Syria, and US special operators have been active working alongside the Kurds in northern Syria.