At the same time the head of the Government of National Accord (GNA) Fayez al-Serraj claimed that no foreign troops are needed on the ground, a report was released saying that US special forces assist the Libyan forces in its fight against ISIS.
According to a report by The Washington Post, “U.S. Special Operations forces are providing direct, on-the-ground support for the first time to fighters battling the Islamic State.”
US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a mission that has not been announced publicly, told the Washington Post that American troops were operating out of joint operations center on the city’s outskirts and that their role was limited to supporting forces loyal to the country’s fragile unity government.
Fayez al-Serraj has claimed that the country did not need foreign troops on the ground in the fight against the Islamic State group. In an interview with Italy’s Corriere Della Sera daily, Fayez al-Serraj said, “We do not need foreign troops on Libyan soil.”
He also said, “Our men can manage alone once they have a cover from the air. I only asked for US air strikes which must be very precise and limited in time and geographical scope, always carried out in coordination with us.”
Fayez al-Serraj, who requested from the United States of America to carry out air strikes, knows that he will be put on accusation for allowing foreign military involvement without the approval of the Tobruk government.
Since May 12, 2016, the GNA forces have been engaged in a military operation to retake control over Sirte. The coastal city of Sirte has been a stronghold of the Islamic State since June 2015.
However, the WP report gave a clear proof to the presence of western troops on the Libyan ground unlike what has been claimed by the head of the UN-backed government.
The American operation in Sirte “is the culmination of an extended, low-visibility mission in Libya by U.S. special operators, who established small outposts in recent months,“ according to the Post.
In late 2015, the ongoing U.S. Special Operations mission came into public view when pictures of the heavily armed Americans appeared on social media. Their appearance was another example of the low-visibility operations that have played a major role in the Obama administration’s counter-terrorism strategy.
Moreover, the Washington Post reported that the US and the British troops are operating together in helping coordinate the American air strikes and providing intelligence to partner forces.
Since last Monday, the United States has been carrying out air strikes on ISIS positions in the city based on the GNA’s request.
In the same context, Fayez al-Serraj said that the ISIS, “will use any means possible to send its militants to Italy and Europe” and said he “would not be at all surprised to discover that its men hide out on boats” of migrants headed for the Italian coast.
Italy has authorized the US to use its bases and air space for strikes against ISIS in Libya.
The head of the GNA said he “may go to Russia soon”, adding that his government had “good relations” with Moscow, but without providing further details on the possible trip.
Western presence in the Libyan territory has been leaked in several previous reports.
Middle East Eye had previously revealed details of British special forces fighting on the frontlines against IS in Libya, as well as reports of French, British and American planes operating in Libyan airspace as part of the country’s civil war.