The head of the U.S. Africa Command said the Islamic State has established training camps in eastern Libya. Gen. David Rodriguez, while briefing Pentagon reporters on December 3, added that the United States continues to search for the “network” behind the September 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi without the help of U.S. military “people on the ground.”
Libya has been afflicted by unrest since Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown in 2011, with various tribes, militias, and political groups competing for power.
“The challenge in Libya, of course, is the multiple militias, the multiple governments, between the national convention, as well as the house of representatives and–quite frankly, a lot of confusion on the ground about who’s in charge and not,” said the general.
Speaking of the Islamic State (ISIL/ISIS), Rodriguez later added, “ISIL has begun its efforts over in the east out there to introduce some people over there.” As a strategy, he said, “We’ll have to just continue to monitor and watch that carefully in the future to see what happens or whether it grows on unabated.”
In describing the presence of Islamic State jihadists in eastern Libya, the general stated, “It’s mainly about people coming for training and logistics support right now. It’s for training sites, and that’s what we see right now. As far as a huge command-and-control network, I’ve not seen that yet.”
He said he has not yet recommended use of troops or airpower against ISIS targets in Libya.
“We’re watching it very carefully to see how it develops and everything,” explained Rodriguez. “Right now, it’s just small and very nascent. And we’ll just have to see how it goes.”
The general said that it is his belief the the ISIS militants in Libya are “just [Libyan] militias trying to make a name and trying to make a connection” with core members of the jihadist group.
He added that there was no evidence that that jihadists had traveled into Libya from Iraq and Syria. The U.S. is leading an international coalition against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria, where the group is most active.
Rodriguez told reporters that the United States has applied lessons learned to contingency plans aimed at preventing an attack like the 2012 assault against the U.S. embassy in Benghazi that left four Americans dead, including an ambassador.