Around 20 U.S. special forces troops left Libya Monday after a local militia group demanded their exit, according to the BBC.
A U.S. Africa Command spokesman told the BBC the troops were in the country to “foster relationships and enhance communication with their counterparts in the Libyan National Army,” but opted to leave “in an effort to avoid conflict.”
The news came as President Obama revealed he is sending special forces to places like Syria and Iraq to fight factions of the Islamic State. Since the overthrow of its leader Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, Libya has been in a state of chaos.
“Our special operations forces are hard at work,” Obama said Thursday. “We took out the ISIS leader in Libya. We’ve taken out terrorists in Yemen and Somalia. So we’re sending a message: If you target Americans, you will have no safe haven. We will find you and we will defend our nation.”
Anonymous Pentagon sources told NBC News that special forces were “in and out of Libya” for a period of time in an advisory role.
Photos of the group had appeared on the Libyan Air Force Facebook page, claiming, “a U.S. military plane landed with 20 U.S. soldiers aboard … without prior coordination.”
The Americans said they were there “in coordination with other members of the Libyan army,” according to the Libyan Air Force.
The Libyan Air Force described the American troops “in combat readiness wearing bullet proof jackets.” The men also carried night-vision goggles, GPS devices and combat rifles.
“The response from your heroic army stationed at Watiya base was to tell them to depart immediately and the group left, keeping their equipment with them,” the Libyan Air Force spokesman stated, adding that there are “so many questions about who is dealing with foreign armies under the cover of the [Libyan] army.”