Saturday, July 2, 2016

US General recommends more aggressive US policy in Libya

Marine Lieutenant General Thomas Waldhauser, who is President Barack Obama's nominee to head the US Africa Command, claimed that the U.S. military plans to counter the Islamic State (IS) in Libya "make no sense."

Waldhauser said the U.S. needs to take a tougher stance in Libya. The general appears a bit behind the times as IS is in dire straits in Libya, holding only part of the city of Sirte as its last territory in Libya. The entire city could fall within a few days. Waldhauser made the comments before the Senate Armed Services Committee last Tuesday. Waldhauser said: “I am not aware of any overall grand strategy at this point.” This is probably true, but the U.S. has been making some air-strikes against IS in the past in Libya and has a few Special Forces working with the mostly Misrata militia who are attacking the IS. There may be a few in Benghazi as well helping the Haftar forces of the Libyan National Army.
Waldhauser said that instability in Africa was to the IS advantage and that the group was shifting focus on the Libyan city of Sirte as a backup as it was failing elsewhere. The general should realize that the IS is failing In Sirte now as well and has lost all the surrounding territory it had previously occupied. He said that "despite a growing Daesh presence in the conflict-ridden country, the US military was not conducting any airstrikes." "Daesh" refers to the Islamic State. He said that targets were being developed but no flights had been flown. He said such attacks would be wise and he would welcome the authority to carry them out without having to receive permission from the White House. Notice there is not a word about seeking permission for the attacks from the UN-brokered Government of National Accord (GNA). He fails to mention that GNA-loyal planes have carried out attacks and that the IS is virtually defeated except as an underground terrorist organization.
In response to Walhauser's remarks, Peter Cook, a Pentagon spokesperson, said that "we don't make a decision to carry out a military strike lightly." He said the U.S. had carried out airstrikes in the past and would consider doing so in the future. Last month, Marine General Joseph Dunford of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said the U.S. could deploy troops and equipment to Libya "any day now." Such plans have been put on hold. The GNA has asked only for help with training of its forces. No aid has been forthcoming for the militia, who have successfully encircled the IS in Sirte. The militia do not have basic equipment such as helmets and bullet proof vests that could reduce casualties from snipers. CIA Director John Brennan said that the IS had between 5,000 to 8,000 militants in Libya. This appears to be an estimate that is far too high.
Although suggesting a more aggressive policy Waldhauser said that the small number of troops on the ground in Libya are sufficient for the present. He claimed the troops were performing only advisory roles. He said he was not aware that the US had any "grand strategy" for Libya. If confirmed by the US Senate, Waldhause would replace Army Gen. David Rodriguez who has been head of the Africa Command since 2013.
When Waldhauser was asked by John McCain, the Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman, how he was "going to make a chicken salad" out of the situation in Libya, Waldhauser replied: “We have two significant objectives for the United States: one is to get the government of National Accord up and running, and the second is to disrupt [Islamic State or IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL] inside Libya.” The latter aim appears to have been almost accomplished already by Libyans themselves with very little help either from inside or outside Libya.


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