President Obama is expected to extend the bombing campaign against the Islamic State( ISIS) in Libya for a second time, three U.S. military officials with knowledge of any such requests tell Fox News.
The decision approves the U.S. military to launch a third month of airstrikes against ISIS in the Libyan coastal city of Sirte. Airstrikes began Aug. 1 following a request from the Uited Nations-backed government in Tripoli. At the time, the Pentagon said the Libya mission is very likely to last weeks , not months.
Extending the bombing campaign for another month in Libya entails the Navy will have to keep two warships off the coast of Libya for up to a third consecutive month, according to defense officials. The initial scheme called for the two warships to remain off Libya for one month only.
One of the U.S. warships, the amphibious assault vessel USS Wasp, had been scheduled to go to the Persian Gulf in September to begin airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, as well as got my eye on Iran following recent incidents involving Iranian gunboats and U.S. Navy ships — one of which resulted in advising shootings being fired by a U.S. warship. The other, the destroyer USS Carney, “re supposed to” head to the Black Sea near Russia next month. But the Libya operation against ISIS has been deemed more pressing by senior military leaders.
U.S. Marine Corps Harrier airplanes and attack helicopters as well as drones have conducted 175 airstrikes against ISIS in Libya as of Monday, according to the U.S. militarys Africa Command, which is leading the operation.
The news goes as Obama approved the Pentagons request to deploy an additional 615 American soldiers to Iraq to help local forces-out prepare for the expected assault on Mosul, Iraq's second largest city.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter induced the troop proclamation Wednesday. The U.S. military is now conducting airstrikes against terror groups in six countries: Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia.
The USS Wasp is serving as the launch phase for U.S. airstrikes in Libya. The USS Carney is serving as an bodyguard ship and firing lighting rounds from its 5-inch gun to assistance a U.S.-backed Libyan ground force in Sirte, situated roughly half way between Tripoli and Benghazi.
In addition to the airstrikes, U.S. special operations forces-out have been in and out of Libya for months advising local ground forces, according to defense officials.
When the Libya airstrikes began, a Pentagon spokesman said the strikes was able to back ground forces associated with the fledgling United Nations-backed government known as the Government of National Accord( GNA) for a finite period of time and did not foresee a long commitment.
The duration of this operation will be measured based upon the length of period it takes in order to be allowed to do that objective, Capt. Jeff Davis said during a Pentagon briefing with reporters.
The mission will likely take weeks not months, Davis said at the start of the airstrikes in early August. This is a finite period of time and a very finite mission … We dont envision this as being something thats going to be too long, he said.
Speaking at the White House in August, President Obama told supporting the Libyan government against ISIS was in America's national security interests.
ISIS fighters have been decimated in Libya since US airstrikes began, multiple officials tell Fox News.
Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in August the number of
ISIS fighters in Sirte was under 1,000. After nearly two months of Marine Corps airstrikes, the number of ISIS fighters in Sirte has been estimated to be under 100, according to a U.S. official with knowledge of the latest intelligence.
The official added that U, S, military operations in Libya could be ending soon. Its very close. ISIS is only in three neighborhoods[ in Sirte ], the official added.
In June, CIA Director John Brennan said there were 5,000 to 8,000 ISIS fighters in Libya.
Lucas Tomlinson is the Pentagon and State Department producer for Fox News Channel. You can follow him on Twitter: @LucasFoxNews
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