in libya daesh down but not out
Last Updated : GMT 11:59:16
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Last Updated : GMT 11:59:16
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In Libya, Daesh down but not out

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Egypt Today, egypt today In Libya, Daesh down but not out

Forces loyal to Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) patrol in the Al Giza
Washington - Arab Today

Daesh, though driven from its coastal stronghold in Sirte this week, still has several hundred fighters who have dispersed across Libya and pose a threat to the country, its neighbors and, potentially, Europe, according to US officials and the Pentagon’s Africa Command.

The government’s top counterterrorism official, Nicholas J. Rasmussen, said Daesh’s defeat in Sirte had dealt a major setback to the militancy’s ambitions to expand its so-called “caliphate” in North Africa. But he said he remained “very concerned” about the ability of surviving fighters to exploit the country’s economic and political vacuum.

“The concern we have about external attacks from Syria and Iraq extends to Libya if Daesh is able to maintain a stable foothold there,” Rasmussen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told a security conference here on Wednesday.

That assessment, which echoed other recent warnings from senior US officials, underscores the resilience of what had been considered a potent Daesh affiliate outside the group’s main territory in Syria and Iraq.

Jonathan Winer, the Obama administration’s special envoy to Libya, told Congress last month that Daesh, as it suffered defeats in Sirte at the hands of Libyan fighters and US warplanes, was most likely forming cells around the country. He called on Libyans to unite behind the country’s fledgling Government of National Accord to combat the terrorists.

“Most of those who have not been killed probably have stayed in Libya and gone underground, forming cells elsewhere in the country,” Winer said in testimony to a House panel on Nov. 30. “We believe they are waiting for opportunities to engage in further attacks in Libya or its neighbors, and if possible to reassert Daesh geographically.”

A recent analysis by the American Enterprise Institute, a policy organisation in Washington, found that Daesh militants operating as “desert brigades” south of Sirte had ambushed Libyan military positions, disrupted supply lines with explosives and established checkpoints on key roads. Daesh is recruiting foreign fighters into southern Libya and is most likely relying on the same havens used by the group Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, according to the analysis.

In a telephone interview this week, an official at Africa Command’s headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, said that several hundred Daesh fighters remained in the eastern, southern and western portions of the country, and that counting fighters aligned with Al Qaida brought the militants’ ranks in the country to more than 1,000.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity under the command’s ground rules for news media interviews on intelligence matters, said many of the remaining Daesh fighters had been drawn to the conflict from Tunisia, Morocco, Sudan and other countries in the region.

US intelligence agencies have offered wide-ranging estimates on the peak number of Daesh fighters in Libya - mainly in Sirte, but also in Benghazi and Tripoli - with some assessments this year topping 5,000 militants.

Although Daesh has lost its main base in Libya, it could reorganise as an underground terrorist network by activating the pockets of support it enjoys in cities like Tripoli and Benghazi, and by tapping into the networks of other militant groups like Ansar Al Sharia.

“Is Islamist militancy down and out in Libya? No,” said Frederic Wehrey, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. He pointed to a cocktail of factors that helped the religious extremist cause, including economic collapse, the contraction of civil society and the rise of authoritarianism in eastern Libya. “These are not good signs for the destruction of radicalism,” he said.

Last year’s Daesh assault on the Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli, which killed 10 people, including an American, provides a possible template for future actions intended to destabilize the country’s fragile UN-backed unity government.

But since the assault on Sirte started in May, Daesh has not carried out any major bombings in Tripoli, which raises questions about the group’s capabilities. In February, US warplanes devastated a major training camp outside the western town of Sabratha, killing at least 43 people, including a commander linked to attacks against Western tourists in Tunisia last year.

The siege of Sirte revealed tensions between local and foreign fighters inside Daesh ranks. As the forces from nearby Misrata pressed the siege in recent months, Libyan news media outlets reported divisions between Libyan militants who wanted to surrender and foreign jihadis who were determined to fight to the death.

This past summer, the Obama administration deemed Sirte an “area of active hostilities,” after the Libyan prime minister asked for assistance in dislodging Daesh militants from that city. The move exempted the area from 2013 rules that restrict drone strikes and other counterterrorism operations away from battlefield zones, which President Barack Obama had announced in a major speech that year that sought to turn a page in the long-running war against Al Qaida.

As of this week, Africa Command had carried out 495 airstrikes against militants in Sirte since August.

Pentagon and Africa Command officials said there were no plans to expand authorities to conduct airstrikes beyond Sirte, although US officials have said they would consider additional requests from Libyan officials.

Under the procedures set up for the Sirte operation, Libyan ground commanders meet at a Libyan operations center outside Sirte with US Special Operations forces who have been in the country for months. The Libyan commanders request targets they want the Americans to hit, such as T-72 tanks.

The US forces, working with military spotters and officials at Africa Command, analyse the prospective targets using imagery from American surveillance drones and other intelligence. If deemed valid and not too great a risk to civilians, the targets are approved for attack.

The United States began flying unarmed surveillance drone missions this summer in Libya from bases in neighboring Tunisia, a significant expansion of that country’s counterterrorism cooperation with the Pentagon.

Tunisia, which has suffered several devastating terrorist attacks, had already built a 125-mile earthen wall, which stretches about half the length of its border with Libya, in an attempt to prevent militants from infiltrating. “We are ready,” Faysal Gouia, Tunisia’s ambassador to Washington, said in an interview

source : gulfnews

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in libya daesh down but not out in libya daesh down but not out



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