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Libya watchers on the who, what, and why of U.S. airstrikes against ISIS in Sirte

Libyan prime minister  Fayez Sarraj addresses a press conference on May 16, 2016 in Vienna, Austria.
Libyan prime minister Fayez Sarraj addresses a press conference on May 16, 2016 in Vienna, Austria.

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In an effort to curtail the expansion of the Islamic State group in Libya, the United States bombed targets in the city of Sirte and caused “heavy losses” according to Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj.

The airstrikes mark the beginning of a longer campaign in Libya and were requested by Libya’s government, the U.N.-supported Government of National Accord (GNA).  President Obama addressed the airstrikes during a Tuesday morning press conference with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, saying that the bombings were focused on specific targets and were authorized only after GNA forces had pushed ISIS in Sirte into a confined space.

The White House has said that U.S. assistance to Libya only extends as far as airstrikes and information sharing.

All of this comes as civil war continues to pull the country in different directions, as government-backed and jihadist militias fight for government control. On AirTalk today, we’ll explore the players on the ground in Libya, what’s caused the U.S. to offer its assistance with airstrikes, and what the results of the airstrikes have been so far.


Mohamed Eljarh, nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East; he tweets @eljarh

Omar Turbi, Libyan-American human-rights activist who lobbied the U.S. government to take part in NATO ops to save civilian lives during 2011 revolution; he was born in Benghazi and is the founder of Hillside Laguna, an alcohol and drug addiction treatment center here in Southern California