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News, April 2016
NATO May Resume Attacks on Libya Despite British-Italian Reluctance
April 30, 2016
US Beefs up Surveillance Over Islamic State in Libya
By lolita c. baldor, Associated Press
Apr 28, 2016, 6:35 PM ET
The U.S. has moved surveillance drones into the skies over Libya to gather intelligence and get a better picture of what's going on in case additional military strikes against Islamic State militants are authorized.
The top U.S. military officer told a Senate committee on Thursday that the Pentagon has shifted assets to Libya, based on recommendations from the U.S. commander for Africa.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the decision was made more than a month ago to increase resources for U.S. Africa Command.
U.S. officials say the decision allows the Pentagon to shift unmanned aircraft to Libya. Dunford said he agrees with assessments that there are about 6,000 Islamic State militants in Libya.
The rise of the Islamic State in Libya has triggered broad concerns, particularly in Europe. Earlier this month, Army Gen. David Rodriguez, head of U.S. Africa Command, said that the number of Islamic State militants in Libya has doubled in the last year or so to as many as 6,000 fighters, with aspirations to conduct attacks against the U.S. and other nations in the West.
Rodriguez said that local Libya militias have had some success in trying to stop the Islamic State from growing in Benghazi and are battling the group in Sabratha. But he said that decisions to provide more military assistance to the Libyans await a working national government.
Libya slid into chaos following the 2011 uprising that toppled Moammar Gadhafi and has been split between rival governments since 2014. Islamic State militants gained a foothold in Libya amid the power struggle and security vacuum.
The U.S. has conducted two airstrikes in Libya in recent months targeting Islamic State fighters and leaders, but Rodriguez said that those are limited to militants that pose an "imminent" threat to U.S. interests. He said it's possible the U.S. could do more as the government there takes shape.
The increased surveillance would aid any effort to carry out more of those strikes.
Britain sees no immediate threat from Islamic State bases in Libya
Reuters Fri Apr 29, 2016 4:43pm EDT
By Sarah Marsh
Britain's Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said on Friday he saw no immediate threat to Europe from Islamic State bases in Libya and did not expect the new Libyan government to ask for foreign troops anytime soon.
Libya has been in chaos since Western-backed rebels overthrew President Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Western states are hoping a new Libyan unity government, which arrived in Tripoli last month, will be able to make Libya's armed factions work together against the militant group, and have said they are ready to provide training for Libyan forces if requested by the unity government.
The United States has already conducted air strikes against Islamic State militants in Libya.
"I don't expect the Libyan government to ask for foreign troops either in a combat or a training role anytime soon," Hammond said in an interview during a visit to Cuba.
"But we have made clear we will support this new government," he told Reuters.
Hammond last week told The Telegraph newspaper that he did not rule out sending British troops to Libya to fight Islamic State militants.
He reiterated that position, saying Britain would not rule out military action in Libya should there be a "real and substantive threat coming from terrorist bases" there.
"I don't think we see that threat at the moment but I simply wanted to be clear that we can't rule out using the capabilities we have to defend our country and protect our people."
Hammond met with Cuban President Raul Castro earlier on Friday and is the first British Foreign Secretary to set foot in the Communist-ruled island since the 1959 revolution that overthrew a pro-American government.
(Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Frank Jack Daniel)
UN Envoy: IS Attacks Threaten Libya's Oil Installations
By The Associated Press
CAIRO — Apr 27, 2016, 8:27 AM ET
The U.N. envoy to Libya says attacks by the Islamic State group are a serious threat to Libya's oil installations.
Martin Kobler says in a statement Wednesday that he is deeply concerned by recent IS incursions into Libya's oil crescent region and militant attacks on oil fields, calling it a "grave assault" on the economy and "the livelihoods of millions of ordinary Libyans."
Libya slid into chaos following the 2011 uprising that toppled Moammar Gadhafi and has been split between rival governments since 2014.
IS militants gained a foothold in Libya amid the power struggle and security vacuum. It's taken over the central city of Sirte and carried out deadly attacks across the country.
Italian Official: No Military Intervention Planned for Libya
By The Associated Press
ROME — Apr 26, 2016, 1:34 PM ET
An Italian senator says no military intervention is "on the agenda" for Libya.
Senate defense commission president Nicola Latorre's remarks Tuesday came a day after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she and leaders of the United States, France, Italy and Britain had discussed the possibility of expanding military efforts to stop the smuggling of migrants across the Mediterranean.
Smugglers' boats launched from Libya's shores have sent hundreds of thousands of migrants toward Italy in the last three years.
Merkel has emphasized that the leaders didn't discuss concrete proposals for a NATO mission off Libya.
Latorre said Libya's stabilization is crucial for security and for managing the migrant flow. He also urged support for the new government in the oil-rich nation, where the Islamic State group has been gaining ground.
Merkel Hints at Further Military Effort in Libya After Talks
By frank jordans, associated press
HANNOVER, Germany — Apr 25, 2016, 1:47 PM ET
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday that she, U.S. President Barack Obama and the leaders of France, Britain and Italy discussed ways of supporting the fragile unity government in Libya and the possibility of expanding military efforts to stop the smuggling of migrants across the Mediterranean.
NATO is already patrolling for smugglers farther east, in the Aegean Sea between Greece and Turkey, and Obama had assured the European leaders the U.S. was "prepared to also take responsibility with regard to the migration route from Libya to Italy if necessary," Merkel said.
She emphasized, however, that the five leaders didn't discuss "concrete proposals" for a NATO mission off Libya during their hour-long meeting in Hannover, and that a European Union mission in the Mediterranean had been "working quite well."
The White House said in a statement that the leaders had urged NATO and the EU "to draw on their experience in the Aegean to explore how they could work together to address in an orderly and humane way migrant flows in the central Mediterranean."
A senior Obama administration official added that the U.S. would be supportive of a NATO mission in the central Mediterranean. But the official added that the U.S. would defer to NATO to announce the details of such a mission if and when it were to occur. The official wasn't authorized to discuss internal deliberations publicly and requested anonymity.
With the flow of people across the eastern Mediterranean slowing sharply due to the NATO patrols and an EU agreement to return illegal migrants to Turkey, officials say it is likely that those trying to reach Europe will increasingly try to set off from Libya again. The route has seen a number of mass drownings over the past year of migrants packed into unseaworthy boats.
Germany refused five years ago to back the international military campaign against Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, but since his toppling Berlin has been pushing hard to stabilize the North African country, in part to prevent it becoming a hub for people-smugglers and extremist groups such as the Islamic State.
Merkel said the leaders agreed "we will all do whatever we can together to strengthen" the unity government in Libya, but did not go into specific details.
During a recent trip to Tripoli, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier offered to provide the unity government with 10 armored cars worth 3 million euros ($3.38 million) to help protect top officials from assassination.
Juergen Hardt, a German lawmaker and the government's coordinator for trans-Atlantic cooperation, said recently that Germany might also consider assisting the new unity government in driving Islamic State out of Libya.
"We'd end up paying the bill too if we didn't help this (unity) government gain recognition and sovereignty in its country," said Hardt, whose country took in the overwhelming bulk of migrants to Europe last year.
"I wouldn't rule out that an approach like the one targeting IS in Syria could be found and that Germany would play a similar role as in Syria, that's providing airborne reconnaissance and support for those who carry out airstrikes," he told The Associated Press in an interview.
German military help for the new Libyan government could go beyond air support, he added.
"The training effort that we're involved in with the Peshmerga in northern Iraq is a model that is conceivably transferable to reliable forces for the new Libyan government, and that could be done in a neighboring country," Hardt said.
Josh Lederman in Washington contributed to this report.
Obama, EU Leaders to Meet Over IS Group, Migration and Libya
By The Associated Press
Apr 20, 2016, 7:39 AM ET
President Barack Obama will meet with French, British, Italian and German leaders in Hannover next week for discussions expected to touch on Syria, Libya, the Islamic State group and migration, European officials said Wednesday.
Obama, French leader Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Britain's David Cameron and Italy's Matteo Renzi will attend the informal session on Monday and will deal with "pressing international topics," the French presidency said in a statement. British and French officials said the leaders would tackle issues including instability in North Africa, the situation in Syria and the European migration crisis.
The five-way meeting follows an already-planned visit by Obama and Merkel to an industrial technology fair in Hannover, in central Germany.
Christiane Wirtz, a spokeswoman for Merkel, said the chancellor invited the other leaders to Germany but gave few details of their agenda.
"The American president isn't in Europe every month, and it is certainly a good opportunity for the four European heads of state and government to exchange views with the American president," she said in Berlin. "There are enough issues, if you look for example at the situation in Syria, Libya, refugees ... (and) Ukraine."
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