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article imageU.S. to keep some special forces troops in Libya

By Ken Hanly     Mar 24, 2017 in Politics
US Marine General Thomas Waldhauser, head of the US Africa Command, told reporters that the US needs to retain a small special operations force in Libya indefinitely.
Even though he estimated that less than 200 Islamic State fighters remain in Libya, the general still maintained that they were enough of a threat to retain the special operations force there. American stealth bombers attacked IS desert encampments south of Sirte on January 18. Since then, remants of the group have scattered south in small groups that maintain contact with one another. They have not gathered in large groups. Perhaps for fear of attack. In the Janauary attack, it is estimated that about 80 were killed.
Waldhauser told reporters: “They have not left. We continue to watch, we continue to observe to develop the intelligence, and if requested by … the Government of National Accord for assistance, we’ll help them with that.” The US had helped out with the offensive carried out by the Al-Bunyan Al Marsous (BAM) from August 1st last year until Sirte was captured from the IS in December. It carried out more than 500 air strikes against the IS. The IS had held Sirte and surrounding area since early in 2015. Waldhauser could not provide a solid estimate of how many IS fighters were actually in Libya but said it was from 100 to 200. At one time their strength was estimated at about 4,000 within Libya.
While the IS has been much weakened Waldhauser warned: “Anywhere you have a weak or unstable or no government, that’s a breeding ground for [the Islamic State group]. We must make sure our pressure on the network keeps those problems tamped down.” Walhauser refused to say exactly how many US troops would remain in Libya. However, he said that they have to be there so that you can take out targets when they arise. Waldhauser also said: “It’s such a volatile environment right now inside Libya, that one of those things we need to make sure is this doesn’t evolve into an all-out civil war. One thing that unites pretty much everybody in Libya … is the idea that no [Islamic State group] is wanted inside Libya.”
Defending the continued deployment Waldhauser said: "We're going to maintain a force that has the ability to develop intelligence, work with various groups as required, or be able to assist if required again ... to take out ISIS targets." An article in the Military TImes claims that the four-month air campaign in the Sire offensive carried out nearly 700 missions a considerable larger number than reported in an article in Stripes. The Stripes agrees with the 80 estimated killed in the January bombings. Waldhauser also said that the attack was enabled by US personnel on the ground who had spent several weeks coordinating with allies to ensure there would be no collateral damage during the attack. Waldhauser said: "When you conduct precision airstrike, close-air support operations in an urban environment with the requirements to not have civilian casualties, with the requirements to be careful about infrastructure, destruction and the like, you can't do an operation like that without somebody on the ground to interface."
Waldhauser also commented on Russia's involvement in Libya on the ground in the border region between Egypt and Libya. Waldhauser claimed: "They are trying to influence the action, we watch what they do with great concern. In addition to the military side of this, we've seen some recent activity in business ventures -- whether it's oil, whether it's weapon sales that perhaps were stopped when the (Moamer) Kadhafi regime took place."
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