During an interview on “Face the Nation,” Defense Secretary James Mattis made it clear the U.S. was accelerating its military strategy against ISIS. The interview aired on May 25, 2017.
Formerly, the military was using tactics of attrition to push ISIS back. The plan is to surround the terrorist organization and apply annihilation strategies. Mattis explained the goal was to keep them in the Middle East and Africa rendering them incapable of carrying out lone attacks in Western countries.
Our intention is that the foreign fighters do not survive the fight to return home to North Africa, to Europe, to American, to Asia, to Africa. We’re going to stop them there and take apart the caliphate.
In light of the most recent attacks, in Manchester and Egypt, it appears ISIS plans to settle in Libya while they continue to find new recruits and create carnage in other locations, according to the Associated Press. After the death of leader Moammar Gadhafi, in 2011, the terrorist organization controlled 100 miles of coastline with 2-5,000 fighters.
On May 22, 2017, suicide bomber, Salman Abedi killed 22 people outside the Manchester Arena, after an Ariana Grande concert. It is believed he is connected to ISIS. Abedi’s father and brother were arrested in Libya. Authorities stated they were members of the terrorist group.
In Egypt, on May 26, ISIS members shot and killed 29 Christians traveling to a monastery. Those fighters were trained in Libya, as well as those who bombed three Christian churches.
New Offensive Deployed in Iraq
The east side of Mosul was liberated from ISIS in January and the push to free the remainder of the city began in February. The extremist group only holds a few neighborhoods around the Old City. The area is heavily populated, which will complicate further actions.
Planes dropped fliers over Mosul, warning residents to immediately flee the area. There were soldiers available to guide and transport civilians to safe places. The UN estimated that 200,000 people will attempt to leave Mosul in the coming days.
The new offensive began on May 27. U.S.-backed Iraqi fighters surrounded Mosul’s Old City on three sides to take back the area on the Tigris River. In response, ISIS redistributed suicide car bombers, foot soldiers, and snipers.
The new offensive is moving carefully and fighters remain vigilant. Therefore, casualties have not been released on either side of the battle.
ISIS History in Libya
During the 80s, hundreds of Libyan citizens joined the Jihadist group in Afghanistan. They were trained to fight against the Russians. After the war, they returned home and wanted to implement Sharia Law. The idea was unacceptable to the Gadhafi regime so they took to hiding in underground cells. The group attempted to assassinate the dictator but failed.
After Gadhafi was killed, Islamists, Jihadists, al Qaida, and supporters formed militias to take over the government. Darna residents formed their own faction to drive ISIS out and assemble a government. Many of these brigades are fighting in Syria and was the primary source of Jihadists in the Iraq insurgence.
The Libyan National Army has fought Benghazi militias for 2 years. They were able to secure the majority of the city in 2017, except for an extremist neighborhood on the coast. This area is fortified and protected by landmines.
Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte was predominately destroyed during the civil war. Regime loyalists in the area were attacked and executed by rebels.
In 2013, Sirte was overtaken by Benghazi militia, Ansar Al-Sharia. ISIS moved in slowly and declared the city an emirate.
Militias, with support from the UN, waged a war against the terrorist group for the city. The U.S. sent airstrikes to assist militias and extremists fled to the desert.
ISIS held Sebratha is well known for its successful human-trafficking business to Europe. The extremists were able to lay low among the multiple militias, however, that was disrupted when a U.S. airstrike brought their presence to light, in 2016.
By Jeanette Smith
The Hill: Mattis: US shifting to ‘annihilation tactics’ in ISIS fight
Associated Press: After UK, Egypt attacks, Libya seen as militants’ haven
The Globe and Mail: Islamic State snipers, suicide bombers slow advance in Mosul: Iraqi officers
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