A recent eddy of American air attacks against Islamic State militants in southern Libya has severely disturbed the terrorist group’s efforts to reorganize and carry out attacks in one of its most vital hubs exterior the Middle East, military, and counterterrorism delegates say.
Over ten days in late September, four strikes killed 43 militants — or about one-third of the group’s estimated 150 fighters in Libya — along with some officials and recruiters, in accordance with delegates at the headquarters of the Pentagon’s Africa Command.
The strikes, which different officers stated had been carried out by Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drones based in neighboring Niger, came as the IS had increased recruiting and assaults in recent months in the largely ungoverned regions of southwest Libya. Several new camps of fighters had emerged in that area, inspiring the first American strikes against ISIS in Libya this year.
The setbacks for ISIS in Libya come as the global terrorist organization is scrambling to regain momentum after the death of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in an American commando raid in northwestern Syria on October 26 and the declaration soon after of Mr. al-Baghdadi’s heir, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurayshi.
Even after Mr. al-Baghdadi’s death — a big blow to the terrorist organization — prime American counterterrorism delegates admitted that the Islamic State had begun to rebound, particularly in Iraq, after an American-supported campaign regained territory that made up the organization’s religious state, or caliphate.
The intensified American counterterrorism actions in southern Libya come against the backdrop of a four-year civil war being fought in the north, a battle through which Russia is now driving far more directly to shape the result.