US commandos continue to gain intel in Libya, says Pentagon

US commandos continue to gain intel in Libya, says Pentagon

WASHINGTON – Agence France-Presse
US commandos continue to gain intel in Libya, says Pentagon

Libyan security forces stand guard during a protest in the eastern coastal city of Benghazi calling for military forces to re-capture the southern city of Sirte from ISIL without foreign intervention on May 6, 2016 - AFP photo

The U.S. military does not have a “great picture” of the situation in Libya, but small teams of U.S. special operations forces continue working in the war-torn country to gain intelligence, a spokesman said May 16.

The Pentagon was forced to acknowledge in December that a team of U.S. commandos had gone to Libya after they were kicked out the country by local forces who posted a photograph of the men on Facebook.  

The U.S. still has a “small presence” in Libya tasked with trying to identify the players and which groups might be able to assist the United States in its mission to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told reporters.

Exploiting Libya’s power vacuum, the jihadists have established a firm foothold in the North African country, especially in the coastal city of Sirte.

“This small presence of U.S. forces has been trying to identify players on the ground, and try and find out exactly what are their motives and what they are trying to do,” Cook said.  

“That is to give us a better picture of what’s happening,” he added. “Because we don’t have a great picture, and this is one way we have been able to get a better intelligence sense of what’s going there.” 

The U.S. presence is not permanent, Cook said, stressing that the elite U.S. forces would not be training local partners, as has been the focus in other countries grappling with ISIL. 

The United States, Italy and Libya’s friends and neighbors agreed May 16 to arm the war-torn country’s fledgling unity government to fight ISIL’s threat.

A 25-member group had agreed to exempt the Government of National Accord from the U.N. arms embargo imposed to halt the Libyan conflict, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said.

But the Pentagon has not yet been issued “any particular marching orders,” Cook said.