Small Wars Journal

U.S. Strikes Qaeda Target in Southern Libya, Expanding Shadow War There

U.S. Strikes Qaeda Target in Southern Libya, Expanding Shadow War There by Declan Walsh and Eric Schmitt – New York Times

The United States military carried out its first ever drone strike against Qaeda militants in southern Libya this weekend, signaling a possibly significant expansion of the American counterterrorism campaign in the North African nation.

Until now, the Pentagon had focused its counterterrorism strikes in Libya almost exclusively on Islamic State fighters and operatives farther north — eight since President Trump took office. In 2016, the military conducted nearly 500 airstrikes in the coastal city of Surt over several months to destroy the Islamic State’s stronghold there.

But the attack on Saturday that the military’s Africa Command said had killed two militants — later identified by a spokeswoman as belonging to Al Qaeda’s branch in northwestern Africa — took place in the country’s southwest, a notorious haven for a deadly mix of Al Qaeda and other extremist groups that also operate in the Sahel region of Niger, Chad, Mali and Algeria.

“This appears to be the continuation of expanding AFRICOM activity in Libya’s ungoverned areas,” said Deborah K. Jones, who served as United States ambassador to Libya from 2013 to 2015, referring to the Africa Command…

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