Egypt is getting ready to launch a large air and ground attack against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) in eastern Libya DebkaFile reports, quoting military and intelligence sources.
The Obama administration is reportedly opposed to the operation.
“Egypt is massing large-scale ground and air forces in the Western Desert along the Libyan border, in preparation for a military campaign to capture eastern Libya — Cyrenaica — from the Islamist State of Syria and Iraq — ISIS — occupation,” reports DebkaFile.
“The substantial naval and marine forces assembling at Egypt’s Mediterranean ports indicate the possible launching of the offensive by dropping Egyptian marines on the Libyan coast around Derna (pop: 100,000), which ISIS has made its provincial capital,” it added. “They may be accompanied by simultaneous landings of paratroops from the air.”
Some officials have warned that ISIS may use Libya to launch attacks against Europe.
The DebkaFile report notes that the Obama administration is against a direct invasion of Libya by Egypt, but would support Cairo taking action through local Libyan militias.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi was not convinced by CIA Director John Brennan who related Obama’s position on April 19.
“President El-Sisi was not surprised to hear from the CIA director that the Obama administration objects to a direct Egyptian invasion of Libya, but would not oppose Cairo acting through local Libyan militias,” said DebkaFile.
“Brennan leaned hard on the Egyptian president to follow Washington’s line, but El-Sisi refused,” it added later.
President El-Sisi did tell the CIA director that he does not plan to keep the Egyptian army in Libya. He is planning to pull his troops out after the jihadists are defeated. Ultimately, El-Sisi said he would hand power back to the elected Libyan government.
ISIS’ presence in eastern Libya and Sinai poses an unacceptable threat to El-Sisi’s country, noted the report.
“He has been warned in a number of intelligence reports that the Islamic State’s terrorists have already penetrated some Egyptian towns and even infiltrated certain army units,” it said.
ISIS is reportedly beefing up its presence in eastern Libya with reinforcements from Syria and Iraq to counter Egypt’s planned assault.
“From Syria, they are traveling by air or sea through the Mediterranean; from Iraq, through the Sinai Peninsula, whence oil and drug rings smuggle them across the Suez Canal and Egypt,” said DebkaFile.
Libya has been engulfed in unrest since Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown and executed in 2011 with the support of the Obama administration. Various tribes, militias, and political groups are competing for power in Libya.
The country has been split by two warring factions. One is led by the elected government operating out of Tobruk and the other by militias in Tripoli.
The Obama administration and other Western nations have been reluctant to intervene.
Egypt, without the support of the U.S., launched airstrikes against ISIS targets in Libya after the jihadist group beheaded 21 Egyptian Christians.