President Barack Obama’s nominee to take over all U.S. military operations in Africa admitted there was no strategy to defeat ISIS in Libya in June 21 testimony before Congress.
“I am not aware of any overall grand strategy at this point,” Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser said.
The Islamic State’s largest force outside of Iraq and Syria, which the CIA estimates to have between 5000 and 8000 fighters, is in Libya. Senator Lindsey Graham asked Waldhauser if it made sense the Obama administration was not carrying out airstrikes on ISIS in Libya, he replied “It does not.”
The Obama Administration, in conjunction with the British government, has acknowledged a small special operations footprint in Libya. The United States has refused to help the Libyan government in its current assault on the city of Sirte, the only major city ISIS holds outside of Iraq and Syria.
Pentagon Spokesman Peter Cook defended the Obama Administration’s policy saying the U.S. has targeted high level ISIS leaders in the past and told CNN, “We don’t make a decision to carry out a military strike lightly.” Cook said the Obama administration is wary of the Libyan governments ability to hold territory.
Responding directly to Waldhauser’s comments Cook said, “it’s a complicated situation right now,” and elaborated “the most important thing in terms of our policy, and we believe for the region’s policy, is for that government to take shape.” In February 2016 a senior military official told The Daily Beast said in regards to Libya, “there’s nothing close to happening in terms of a major military operation.”
In 2011, the Obama administration militarily intervened in Libya to prevent then Libyan dictator Colonel Gadhafi from killing his own citizens during a domestic civil war. After Gadhafi’s ouster the Obama administration refused to militarily support the nascent Libyan government. Without international support the provisional Libyan government has languished and the country has descended into civil war.
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