Tensions are high within the Pentagon even after successful counterterrorism efforts in Libya. In January the U.S. conducted a successful bombing of an ISIS training camp in Libya where over 80 militants were killed. ISIS also recently lost its stronghold in the coastal city of Surt, which, combined with the bombing, initially seemed have to sent ISIS militants backpedalling. However, in recent weeks the Islamic State has already begun regrouping, exploiting the fragile state as its political vacuum continues to grip the North African nation.
Previous to the Trump administration, which has vowed to intensify the fight against ISIS, the Pentagon had been increasing its counterterrorism efforts in this region of Africa. The U.S. is building a $50 million drone base in Agadez, Niger, which will be completed in 2018. These unmanned Reaper drones can then start their surveillance much closer to southern Libya where ISIS militants have been seen regrouping. This southern region of Libya is a gateway for ISIS and other extremists flowing north from the Sahel region.
Beyond new drone base facilities being built, American Special Operations forces and the C.I.A. are in the middle of over a yearlong search to identify militia fighters in Libya who the U.S. can trust and support on the ground in the fight against ISIS. General Thomas D. Waldhauser, head of the Pentagon’s Africa Command, and other U.S. military officials have announced their recognition of the fragile situation in Libya. Backing the wrong militants or supporting the wrong factions will lead to further splintering and could result in even more dysfunction and intensifying the political vacuum already consuming the country.
While the U.S. continues to conduct this search for militant fighters, they will continue to conduct bombings like the B-52s strike earlier in January. It still remains unclear how the conflict will pan out, but with the dynamics of the Islamic State it would seem that this is far from over. ISIS has the unique ability to adapt, grow, and disseminate its extremist doctrine through cyberspace. This type of extremist ideology cannot be simply stamped out by Western military power, although that military intervention is necessary. The U.S. and other forces will have to be very strategic and cautious in order to ensure stability and peace in such a hostile and tenuous environment.
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