TEL AVIV – Dozens of Russian, American, and British troops have been deployed to Libya ahead of an offensive against the Islamic State, Libyan sources told the London-based daily Asharq al-Awsat.
The forces are based in the Jamal Abdulnasir military base south of Tobruk, the seat of the country’s embattled parliament. A small American contingent was deployed near the capital Tripoli.
The paper quotes a senior security official as saying that the forces were sent on a reconnaissance mission and are set to advise the Libyan army on how to curtail the growth of Islamic militias, including IS, across the country.
The paper says that the deployment is the latest stage in an international effort to establish a universally recognized government to stabilize the country that has been ravaged by civil war since the fall of President Muammar Gadhafi in 2011.
The international effort has been met by stringent opposition on the part of local militias and political parties. Issa Baed al-Majid, an adviser to the Speaker of the Parliament, accused the United Nations and other international alliances of exploiting recent attacks carried out by IS in order to impose a pro-Western government on the Libyan people.
On Friday, Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, urged decisive military action to halt the progress of IS in Libya, warning the global terrorist group was seeking to use the country as a regional headquarters and staging base.
“You want to take decisive military action to check ISIL’s expansion and at the same time you want to do it in such a way that’s supportive of a long-term political process,” Dunford said, using an alternative name for IS.
IS control of Libya would not only create a jihadi threat on Europe’s doorstep, it might further destabilize the anti-Islamic regime in Cairo and overtake Al Qaeda as the primary jihadi organization in North Africa.