Obama looks to take fight to Islamic State in Libya

imgWashington – US President Barack Obama has asked key advisors to draw up options for ratcheting up the fight against the Islamic State group, including opening a new front in Libya.
Eighteen months after a US-led coalition began airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, multiple administration sources said on Friday that the White House wants to speed up and broaden the effort.
Efforts will deepen to retake Raqa in Syria, Mosul in Iraq and to check the jihadists’ growth in Afghanistan, but there is an increasing focus on Libya.
Potential options are said to range from intensified air strikes to participation in a UN-backed ground force that would help take on Libya’s estimated 3 000 Islamic State fighters.
The Defense Department “stands ready to perform the full spectrum of military operations as required,” spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Michelle Baldanza told AFP.
“We also continue to work with the international community to mitigate conflict in Libya, promote stability, and strengthen governance.”
Officials caution that Obama has not yet been presented with concrete military plans, though the security situation is acute.
“Action in Libya is needed before Libya becomes a sanctuary for ISIL, before they become extremely hard to dislodge,” said one US defense official.
“We don’t want a situation like in Iraq or Syria.”
Since rebels and Western airpower toppled Moamer Kadhafi’s regime in 2011, the country has effectively lacked a government.
In the chaos a disparate group of foreign fighters, homegrown militiamen, tribes and remnants of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group have coalesced around the IS banner and gained a foothold.
Jihadists have recently taken control of Kadhafi’s home town of Sirte, a strategic port near oilfields that could provide a lucrative source of income.

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