United States Africa Command announced today that it has carried out nine airstrikes in Sirte, Libya since Aug. 1. The bombings are part of “Operation Odyssey Lightning,” which is targeting the Islamic State’s positions, weapons and equipment in the city.
Five of the airstrikes took place on the first day of the air campaign, destroying two tanks (a T-72 and a T-55), “two military support vehicles,” “an enemy fighting position,” and “two pieces of heavy engineering equipment.” Four subsequent airstrikes on Aug. 2 and 3 took out a rocket launcher, “one piece of heavy engineering equipment (excavator),” “one pickup truck with mounted recoilless rifle,” and “one pickup truck with mounted recoilless rifle.”
Africa Command has also posted a video of the airstrike that disabled the T-72 tank.
As The Long War Journal noted at the outset of the airstrikes, local fighters loyal to the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) had stalled in their campaign to clear the so-called “caliphate’s” fighters from Sirte. Al Bunyan Al Marsoos (“Solid Structure”), a military operations room that recruits fighters from Islamist militias in Misrata and elsewhere, made progress during the first weeks of its offensive in late May and early June. But the Islamic State is hunkered down inside the city and this prompted the GNA and Al Bunyan Al Marsoos to call in air support from the Americans.
US Africa Command says that the bombings and other actions “taken previously” are intended to “deny Daesh [Islamic State] a safe haven in Libya from which it could attack the United States and our allies.”
In February, the US targeted a Tunisian named Noureddine Chouchane. The Pentagon described Chouchane as a “senior facilitator” for the Islamic State in Libya. He had been implicated in high-profile terrorist attacks in neighboring Tunisia. The Defense Department also suggested that Chouchane could “potentially” be involved in “planning external attacks on” American “interests in the region.” [See LWJ report, US airstrike targets Islamic State operative, training camp in Libya.]
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THE US AFRICAN COMMAND LAUNCH AIRSTRIKE AGAINST TARGETS IN AFRICA.
Thomas, these airstrikes seem to be a piecemeal operation and makes one question how strong the commitment is to root out the Islamic State in Libya to begin with. The USS Wasp is offshore Sirte and certainly can provide more firepower than nine airstrikes. The US strategy seems to be totally air power “precision strike” centric and perhaps unnecessary in this case, like swatting flies with a hammer. For example, single Navy destroyer with its highly accurate 5 inch gun has the range can provide all the fire support needed to root out ISIL in Sirte.