Monday, August 1, 2016

Airstrikes begin against ISIS in Libya.

Libyan fighters fighting near Sirte. Reuters. 

US planes and drones have launched airstrikes against ISIS in Libya. Reuters. The Libyan Government of National Accord, one of two competing governments in Libya, requested the airstrikes to support their offensive against the ISIS held city of Sirte. Sirte was ISIS's main base of operations in Libya but they have been mostly pushed out of the city. A few holdouts remain and these holdouts were just bombed by US drones and airplanes. The airstrikes were limited in scale and only targeted an ISIS tank and two other vehicles. The strikes will continue but will be limited to Sirte. Several hundred ISIS fighters still remain in Sirte.

My Comment:
I am surprised it took this long for anyone to target ISIS in Libya. Libya was ISIS's third biggest holding outside of Syria and Iraq, and the logical place to go if those countries are liberated. ISIS took over Sirte and a lot of the coastline in the center of the country due to the chaos after Libya's government was overthrown. 

ISIS was also using their bases in Libya as a way to target other countries. ISIS was using their western bases to attack Tunisia and may have used the Libyan refugee route to sneak fighters into Europe. The attacks in Tunisia were terrible and who knows how many people managed to sneak into Europe from Libya?

The good news is that ISIS has been pushed back throughout the country. Their losses in Libya are even worse then their losses in Syria and Iraq. At their peak they controlled Sirte, a huge swath of the coastline, had bases in the western part of the country and had a major presence in Benghazi. Now they have been mostly pushed out of Sirte, lost much of the coastline, seen their western bases destroyed. They still have a presence in Benghazi but it's clear that ISIS is nowhere near the power they once were in Libya. It's to the point where I don't think Libya is a credible backup plan for ISIS anymore.

When Sirte falls, and it is a question of when not if, ISIS's power base in Libya will be completely broken. They really have nowhere else to retreat to in Libya. They will have to move underground and act like a more traditional terror organization. That doesn't mean that ISIS in Libya will no longer be a threat. They will still conduct terror strikes and may still use Libya as a base to attack countries. But they will have to be a lot more careful about it and won't be nearly as effective as they once were. 

After Sirte is liberated we will get a preview of what will happen in Iraq and Syria after Mosul and Raqqa are defeated. That's a long way off but we have never seen what happens to a country that ISIS had major control in. It's uncharted territory. 

My guess is that ISIS will go underground and will continue terror attacks. And they will wait for another opportunity. Libya is still not a stable country. There are about four other factions fighting each other, including two rival governments. As long as Libya remains a chaotic unsafe nation, ISIS has a chance to rise from the ashes. 

I don't think these airstrikes will have all that much of an effect. ISIS control over Sirte was doomed no matter what. And it's not like the Libyan military doesn't have their own fighter jets. They could have used their own airplanes. The only major difference is accuracy. Using US assets probably saved some collateral damage but likely did not have a major effect on the battle. 

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