ISIS IN ACTION
In an interview with the Associated Press on 17 February, Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, the head of US Africa Command, said that the US obtained significant intelligence from the Islamic State (ISIS) camps, located 45km south of Sirte, which were hit by US airstrikes on 19 January. A senior US military official said that several ISIS fighters who survived the airstrikes (around 90 fighters are believed to have been killed) had been taken for interrogation by Misratan-led al-Bunyan al-Marsus forces, who are nominally allied with the Government of National Accord (GNA). The official said the intelligence collected at the ISIS camps confirmed that the fighters had direct communication with the core ISIS group in Syria. It also provided information on how they move through tunnels in the country.
Gen. Waldhauser told The Associated Press, “We did get some actionable intelligence and we continue to work with that and develop what we can from it.” He said the US military had been watching the camps since late last autumn but that the fighters move around southern Libya and do not stay anywhere for long. He said of the strike, “It was successful from the standpoint that we really did, I think, send a very strong signal to the ISIL that remains in Libya that we will watch you and we will come after you.” Gen. Waldhauser estimated that there are still “a couple of hundred” ISIS members left in Libya.
Following the eviction of ISIS from Sirte in December, the process of resettling displaced Sirte residents is ongoing. On 18 February, one hundred more families began returning to residential areas 1 and 2 in the centre of the city. Control of Sirte remains highly contested between the GNA’s Misratan-led forces and LNA supporters, including the Salafist 604 brigade which is currently securing the city. The whereabouts of Sirte’s mayor and two assistants two weeks after their abduction en route to Tripoli remains unknown.
On 20 February, the Foreign Ministers of Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt issued a ministerial declaration on Libya following meetings in Tunis. The declaration stressed a ‘Libyan-Libyan’ political solution with regional and UN mediation, within the framework of the internationally recognized Libyan Political Agreement (LPA). The framework should include the LPA institutions; the House of Representatives (HoR), the Government of National Accord (GNA) and the High State Council (HSC). The ministers pledged to jointly brief the UN and organize a summit in Algeria for the presidents of the three countries to drive forward the process. The Tunis meeting followed Egypt’s failed attempt to broker a meeting between the GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj and Marshall Khalifa Haftar in Cairo last week.
On 16 February, Serraj requested support from NATO to bolster the GNA’s security institutions. On 20 February, the French ambassador met the GNA’s Minister of Interior Alaref al-Khoja in Tunis to discuss support for the GNA’s security forces.
This article was used with explicit permission from the author.