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U.S. to extend bombing mission in Libya for another month

BAM forces are mainly from Misrata and are loyal to the UN-backed Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA). The operation has been successful in helping the BAM forces defeat the remnants of the IS who remain in Sirte. Very little of Sirte is left to be cleared and the battle should be over within days. In spite of this, President Obama has extended the mission for another entire month, two defense officials told Fox News.

The US has launched more than one hundred missions against the Islamic State in Sirte since the operation began. An AFRICOM spokesperson, Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Falvo, said: “U.S. precision airstrikes have enabled GNA-aligned forces to advance and take key areas of the city from the grasp of the Islamic State.” On Monday alone the US Africa Command carried out five strikes against IS positions in Sirte. A recent tweet gives a more updated tally of the strikes: “#Libya : Harrier jets have conducted 124 missions & the Cobra attack helicopters have flown 31 missions in #Sirte.”

Obama’s decision will keep two U.S. warships off the coast of Libya. One, the USS Wasp, is a large amphibious assault ship said to be loaded with more than 1,000 Marines as well as Harrier jets and Cobra attack helicopters. An escort ship, the destroyer USS Carney is a guided missile destroyer. The destroyer is said to be close enough to Libya to be seen from the shore.

One defense official said he expected U.S. airstrikes to end soon as BAM forces now had control of 90 percent of Sirte. Neither the White House nor the Pentagon have yet officially announced the extension of the mission. It is not clear what the U.S. could bomb after Sirte has been cleared of IS fighters. However, IS units may appear in other areas of Libya. The BAM forces have been helped by small numbers of special forces on the ground from the U.K. and the U.S. Why 1,000 marines remain stationed off shore is not explained. AFRICOM would not speculate as to how long the campaign might continue.

The bombing was initiated at the request of the UN-backed Government of National Accord. Last week, PM of the GNA, Faiez Serraj, went to AFRICOM headquarters in Stuttgart and had talks with Gen. Thomas Waldhauser on counter-terrorism operations. He expressed a “desire for U.S. assistance with future enhanced military capabilities and defense capacity building.”

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