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Thu Aug 11, 2016, 07:24 AM


Libya: For the 1st time, U.S. Special Operations forces are providing direct, on-the-ground support

U.S. Special Operations forces are providing direct, on-the-ground support for the first time to fighters battling the Islamic State in Libya, U.S. and Libyan officials said, coordinating American airstrikes and providing intelligence information in an effort to oust the group from a militant stronghold.

The positioning of a small number of elite U.S. personnel, operating alongside British troops, in the coastal city of Sirte deepens the involvement of Western nations against the Islamic Stateís most powerful affiliate.

U.S. officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a mission that has not been announced publicly, said the American troops were operating out of a joint operations center on the cityís outskirts and that their role was limited to supporting forces loyal to the countryís fragile unity government.

Robyn Mack, a spokeswoman for U.S. Africa Command (Africom), said small numbers of U.S. military personnel would continue to go in and out of Libya to exchange information with local forces, but she declined to provide details.

An expanded on-the-ground role for Western nations follows the Obama administrationís decision earlier this month to begin regular airstrikes on Islamic State positions in Sirte, the groupís de facto capital in North Africa. Since the strikes began about a week ago, U.S. planes have struck almost 30 militant targets.



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