The Bunyan Marsus coalition continued its steady advance deep into the center of Sirte, taking major residential areas throughout the week with the help of US airstrikes. ISIS militants still fighting in these areas continue to show fierce resistance using snipers, mortars and SVBIEDs, but the gains made by Bunyan Marsus indicate that the entirety of Sirte may be liberated within the next two weeks.
In more detail, the Bunyan Marsus coalition continued to root out ISIS in Sirte with the help of US airstrikes, retaking the second residential area west of the port, and advancing north into the third residential area. Despite these gains ISIS forces continue to inflict significant damage on the Misratan-led coalition. On 15 August, ISIS claimed two SVBIED attacks against Bunyan Marsus on the western front. Then on 18 August, ISIS struck again, using two more SVBIEDs to hit a Bunyan Marsus assembly point nine kilometers into liberated territory near the ‘Al Gharbiyat’ bridge. The attack killed more than 18 and wounded another 70. By 21 August, Bunyan Marsus had liberated areas ‘200’ and ‘Hay Al Naga.’ Additionally, the coalition captured the main ISI court at the ‘Hisba,’ and ISIS detention facility at the homeland security building and the Ribat Mosque, where Turki Al Binali used to give his Friday sermons.
As of 22 August, US Africa Command press statements say that the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit has conducted 77 airstrikes in Sirte under Operation Odyssey Lightning. Additional reporting by the Washington Post indicates the US has begun utilizing the AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter to provide close air support to Bunyan Marsus as the coalition makes its final push to eradicate ISIS from the city. The report also noted that most of the targeting information for the airstrikes in Sirte is being relayed to U.S. forces by Libyan coalition troops.
Meanwhile, the no-confidence vote for the Government of National Accord (GNA) dealt by the Libyan House of Representatives on 22 August creates significant issues for the international community’s attempts to provide support to the GNA. Further, it is not clear what affect this development will have on the West’s assistance package for the campaign against ISIS in Libya, including US Operation Odyssey Lightning, which began on 1 August and was initiated at the request of the GNA.