National Security Desk / Aug. 2, 2016

Libya in Chaos, Obama Lobs Bombs

Hillary Clinton's policy has yielded disastrous results.

Despite recent setbacks, particularly in Syria, the Islamic State is on the move. Recall that in June, Barack Obama asserted, “Our mission is to destroy ISIL,” and “we are making significant progress.” He added, “And as a result, ISIL is under more pressure than ever before.” In light of the spate of Islamist attacks around the globe, yes, he said that with a straight face.

But according to a new report, government data reveals “a stunning three-fold increase in the number of places around the globe where ISIS is operating.” The State Department reports the Islamic State was active in seven nations just two years ago, but today that number has risen to “18 countries where ISIS is fully operational,” which doesn’t include “six countries where they’re taking root: Egypt, Indonesia, Mali, the Philippines, Somalia and Bangladesh.”

Roughly 2,000 miles to the west of ISIL’s central command in Raqqa lies one of those cities in which the militant group is hoping to regroup — Sirte, located in Libya, a desolate and feeble nation in North Africa that once was controlled by the autocratic ruler Moammar Gadhafi. On Monday, the U.S. began conducting airstrikes in the city in an effort to reverse the group’s momentum and loosen its stronghold.

The Wall Street Journal writes, “It’s about time. Forces loyal to the Libyan government have long sought more U.S. military assistance to stop the spread of Islamic State, and U.S. generals have supported it. Mr. Obama has resisted for reasons that are hard to understand, unless the President simply hasn’t wanted to publicly acknowledge that the terror group has expanded its reach.”

Indeed, the question is, what took so long? And why the hesitation? As recently as February, the Obama administration expressed deep opposition to providing aerial support. As reported in The Daily Beast at the time, “In recent weeks, the U.S. military … have pushed for more airstrikes and the deployment of elite troops, particularly in the city of Sirte. … But those plans have since been put on the back burner. ‘There is little to no appetite for that in this administration,’ one defense official explained.”

And even this week’s bombings took some prodding. According to Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook, “​At the request​ [emphasis added] of the Libyan Government of National Accord, the United States military conducted precision air strikes against ISIL targets in Sirte, Libya, to support GNA-affiliated forces seeking to defeat ISIL in its primary stronghold in Libya.” In other words, Obama’s ​modus operandi​ — “better late than ever,” but even then only half-heartedly and after our “allies” come calling — was demonstrated once again.

It’s refreshing to finally see ​some​ sort of anti-terrorism U.S. response in Libya, but keep in mind, none of this would even have been necessary had Obama and Hillary Clinton not bungled Middle East policy by destabilizing Libya and abandoning Iraq. Obama & Co. say ISIL is on the run. They are indeed running in many different directions, recruiting and proselytizing as they go.

(Revised and updated.)

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