US military “prepared” to train and equip Libya’s GNA against ISIS

A member of the force assigned to protect Libya's unity government stands at the entrance to where the government has their offices, in Tripoli, Libya.
A member of the force assigned to protect Libya’s unity government stands at the entrance to where the government has their offices, in Tripoli, Libya.

The U.S. military is “prepared to support” a train-and-equip mission to fight the thousands of Islamic State militants in Libya when the Libyan government is ready for it, the head of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) said Tuesday.

AFRICOM commander General Rodriguez added that Libya’s internal politics have made it unclear which armed groups are fighting alongside the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA), leaving the U.S. “really dependent” on the Libyan interim government to determine “who is with them and who is moving over to them.”

Libya is under a U.N. arms embargo, imposed to keep lethal weapons away from terrorists and militias vying for power.

However, a joint communique issued after international talks Monday in Vienna signaled that international powers, including the U.S., are set to provide arms and support to the Libyan government to fight Islamic State.

“The thing that they need most is really ammunition and small arms,” Rodriguez said. “It’s not fighter aircraft and that kind of stuff.”

Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook told reporters Tuesday at the Pentagon that there were small teams of U.S. forces on the ground in Libya to get a “better sense of the players” and to more accurately understand the Islamic State group’s presence and strength level.

Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow on defense strategy at the Brookings Institution, said the 20 to 25 U.S. forces now in Libya, along with other NATO allies on the ground there, should “get serious” about a training mission for a Libyan military or integrated paramilitary.

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