Pentagon expands ISIS airstrikes into Libya

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The Pentagon announced Monday it has conducted airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Libya, and will continue to do so in an expansion of its air campaign against the terrorist group. 

Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said the airstrikes were conducted at the request of the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA), and in support of forces seeking to defeat ISIS in its primary Libyan stronghold of Sirte.  

The strikes were authorized by President Obama, following a recommendation from Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford, Cook said. 

“They are consistent with our approach to combating ISIL by working with capable and motivated local forces,” he said, using another acronym for ISIS. 

“GNA-aligned forces have had success in recapturing territory from ISIL thus far around Sirte, and additional U.S. strikes will continue to target ISIL in Sirte in order to enable the GNA to make a decisive, strategic advance,” he added. 

“The U.S. stands with the international community in supporting the GNA as it strives to restore stability and security to Libya,” Cook said. 

In Iraq, the U.S.-led military coalition has taken back roughly half of the territory seized by ISIS. But the battlefield success there has sparked concerns that ISIS will attempt to establish safe havens in Afghanistan and Libya. 

“These actions and those we have taken previously will help deny ISIL a safe haven in Libya from which it could attack the United States and our allies,” Cook said on Monday. 

Islamic extremists have established a foothold in Libya, following the overthrow of former leader Moammar Gadhafi. 

The U.S. military has struck ISIS targets in Libya before, but this is the first time the Libyan government has requested U.S. airstrikes.

The military conducted a training camp in February near Sabratha, Libya, targeting Noureddine Chouchane, a senior ISIS member from Tunisia.

At the time, a defense official said international law gives the U.S. “a self-defense basis for using military force against ISIL.”

“As a matter of domestic law, the use of U.S. military force against ISIL is authorized by the 2001 authorization for use of military force,” Lt. Col. Michelle Baldanza told The Hill.

The U.S. also conducted airstrikes in Libya last November against Abu Nabil, an Iraqi national who was a longtime al Qaeda operative and senior leader in Libya, which the military also said was consistent with domestic and international law.

Updatedat 11:38 a.m.

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