Tuesday, August 23, 2016

US deploys Marine Super Cobra attack helicopters to Libya to fight ISIS.

USMC AH-1W similar to the ones uses in Libya. US Military photo.

The US has begun using Marine attack helicopters to attack ISIS in Libya. AFP. The deployment of AH-IW Super Cobra's comes after the US joined the campaign to retake the city of Sirte from ISIS. The attack helicopters will be used in a precision close air support role. The Super Cobra's are based off the USS Wasp, an amphibious assault ship which is also the home of Harrier jump jets that are also attacking ISIS. The US forces in the country are their at the request of the Government of National Accord, (GNA) one of two competing governments in the country. Though no official ground troops are on the ground in Libya, the US government admits that there have been some special forces in the country. 

My Comment:
Very interesting deployment in Libya. It's clear that we are pulling out all the stops to win the battle in Sirte against ISIS. The problem is that I thought ISIS had already been kicked out of Sirte. From what I understand that most of the city is under the control of GNA forces. That has been true for a couple weeks now. It seems as thought the battle has stalled.

ISIS has also been very active in sending raids and bombings into the city. Sirte is pretty much their last stronghold in Libya so they are fighting hard to keep it. I have said in the past that if ISIS loses Sirte, they pretty much lose the entire country. Sirte is the last major city they had control off. They still have troops in Benghazi and a few smaller towns in the coast, but other then that, they have lost most of their possessions in Libya. 

This is, of course, a very good thing. ISIS has been using Libya for their goals for far too long. They have staged multiple terror attacks out of Libya. Most of those attacks targeted the neighboring country of Tunisia. But there was also fears that ISIS would use the Libyan migrant route to send infiltrators into Europe. They may have done so already, but with ISIS's power base in Libya dissolving, that option may no longer exist.

The next question is what happens after ISIS is defeated in Libya for good. Sirte is basically their last stand and once they are completely out of the city they will essentially have lost the war. But even after that happens, ISIS won't be gone completely. They still control some minor areas and could also go underground. 

If ISIS does go underground in Libya, it will be a preview of what will happen in Iraq and Syria. My guess is that ISIS won't go away completely. They will still launch raids and terror attacks and they will also bide their time. Libya is not a stable country and given that they have two competing governments as well as several different insurgencies, it is very possible that ISIS could rise again from the ashes. 

Indeed, their Nigerian affiliates, Boko Haram, have done the same multiple times. The ISIS affiliate was essentially defeated to the point where they didn't control any cities or towns. But they still launch raids, commit terror attacks and kill many, many people. And they have somewhat reversed their losses. 

I do have to say that I don't think the government is being completely honest about there not being troops on the ground in Libya. Why? If they are deploying attack helicopters that means that they probably have forward air controllers on the ground. This is an absolute requirement for close air support. If you don't have FAC's you risk killing the very troops that you are their support. My guess is that we have troops on the ground to direct their helicopters and attack jets. 

I am not sure how much these strikes will accomplish. Airstrikes make for a good force multiplier and morale boost but they can't win the war by themselves. That falls onto the troops on the ground. I don't know what the quality of the GNA's soldiers are, but it's going to be up to them to win the battle of Sirte. 

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