World View: U.S. Warplanes Strike Suspected Islamic State Training Base in Libya

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This morning’s key headlines from

  • US warplanes strike suspected ISIS training base in Libya
  • US warplane attack on Libya raises question of ground troops
  • Europe plans to expand Operation Sophia into Libyan waters

US warplanes strike suspected ISIS training base in Libya

US warplanes struck ISIS camp in Sabratha (WaPost)
US warplanes struck ISIS camp in Sabratha (WaPost)

US warplanes struck a suspected ISIS training camp in Libya, killing at least 40 people, possibly including Tunisian-born Noureddine Chouchane, a “leading ISIS facilitator.” The camp was in Sabratha in far western Libya, near the border with Tunisia.

Chouchane was linked to two major terrorist attacks in Tunisia last year. In March, two gunmen infiltrated security at the well-known Bardo Museum in Tunis, right next door to the parliament building, where they took and killed 22 hostages, with 50 people injured. In June, a gunman disguised as a tourist opened fire at a Tunisian hotel in Sousse, killing 37 people. In both cases, the victims were mostly foreign tourists. The evident intent of the attacks was to damage Tunisia’s tourist industry.

The so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) has been expanding powerfully in Libya, in the chaos that followed the removal of Muammar Gaddafi from power. Libya is considered a launchpad for attacks not only on African targets, but also on European targets. According to American officials, the death of Chouchane would represent a blow to ISIS’s ability to launch such high-profile attacks. The National (UAE) and Washington Post and CNN

US warplane attack on Libya raises question of ground troops

Friday’s attack on the ISIS base by US warplanes comes days after President Barack Obama said that there would be such attacks on ISIS:

With respect to Libya, I have been clear from the outset that we will go after ISIL wherever it appears, the same way that we went after Al Qaeda wherever they appeared.

However, no one believes that an airstrike on an ISIS camp is going to have much of an effect on the overall situation in Libya. In fact, we’ve already seen in Syria and Iraq that attacking ISIS with just air power is largely ineffective unless supported by ground troops. Friday’s attack will certainly have no effect on the ISIS stronghold in Sirte.

ISIS has continued to grow increasingly powerful in Libya. Since arriving in Libya from Syria, ISIS has set up bases around Sabratha and farther east at Derna and Sirte. Sirte has become its Libya headquarters, with the Pentagon estimating that 5,000-6,000 fighters are now in the country, many from abroad. From Sirte, ISIS has now occupied 240 kilometers of coastline and last month attacked the nearby oil ports of Ras Lanuf and Es Sider, setting storage tanks on fire.

As we’ve reported several times, there are plans for a Western military invasion into Libya to attack ISIS. ( “29-Jan-16 World View — US, Britain, France, Italy continue plans for Libya invasion against ISIS”) The invasion, if it occurs, would take place in early March.

The plan was that the invasion would be launched after the signing of a UN-sponsored “peace deal” aimed at creating a unified representative government in Libya, merging the two separate governments now in existence. However, attempts to get agreement from the two governments to merge have fallen apart. Vice News and Sputnik News (Moscow)

Europe plans to expand Operation Sophia into Libyan waters

Wikileaks has released a classified document describing European Union plans to expand the existing Operation Sophia into a ground invasion.

Operation Sophia, named after a baby born on a German frigate to a rescued Somali woman in August, was launched in October of last year as one of the European Union’s measures to slow the tidal wave of refugees crossing the Mediterranean to Europe. The operation is targeted at human traffickers. Naval patrols board smugglers’ boats in international waters, after they’ve left the Libyan port, remove the migrants, and remove the boat from service. With fewer boats available for smuggling, the flow of migrants is reduced.

Operation Sophia has been somewhat successful in that many of the wooden boats that human traffickers have been using to smuggle refugees have been taken out of service. Wooden boats are now being replaced by rubber dinghies, which smugglers have been importing in quantity from China, transshipping them through Malta.

Operation Sophia is awaiting the right circumstances to transition to a new phase of the project, to move from operating in high seas to operating in Libyan Territorial Waters. Eventually, this would lead to ground troops within Libya.

However, this new phase of Operation Sophia is also being put on hold, because operating with Libyan territorial waters would require the approval of Libya’s government, which evidently is not going to be given. Malta Today and International Business Times and Defense World

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Libya, Sabratha, Tunisia, Noureddine Chouchane, Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria/Sham/the Levant, IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh, Operation Sophia
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