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U.S. Strikes Accelerate Gains Against ISIL in Libya

WASHINGTON, Aug. 2, 2016 — U.S. precision airstrikes on Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant targets in Sirte, Libya, that began yesterday at the request of the Libyan Government of National Accord have allowed GNA-affiliated forces to accelerate the fight to expel ISIL from the Libyan city, a Pentagon spokesman said today.

Five U.S. precision strikes yesterday took out one of ISIL’s T-72 tanks and two military vehicles, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said, adding that so far today, the United States has made two more airstrikes on ISIL targets there, eliminating an ISIL rocket launcher, a second T-72 tank, two construction vehicles and a heavy-equipment excavator.

Strike Removed Menacing Problem

Yesterday’s airstrike on the first tank in the southwestern Sirte neighborhood of al-Dular removed what was a menacing problem for GNA forces, Davis said. The ISIL tank was hidden in a group of trees and close to buildings where civilians could have been, he noted, “ISIL had used it repeatedly to beat back GNA forces, against civilians,” he said, “and it represented a challenge and a problem for [GNA fighters] to be able to get into the city.”

Since the airstrike that took out the first tank yesterday, GNA forces have moved into the neighborhood in their mission to drive out ISIL fighters, Davis said.

Coordinated Strikes

The U.S. airstrikes in Sirte are being done “in conjunction and coordination with, and in support of, the GNA,” the U.S.-recognized Libyan government, Davis told reporters. “The objective is to help the GNA retake Sirte,” he added. “Over the past few months, the [GNA-affiliated forces] have worked to defeat ISIL, and they have been spectacularly successful.”

The GNA forces collapsed an area of the ISIL stronghold of Sirte where the enemy controlled much of the coastline along the Gulf of Sidra, stretching from near Tripoli up to Benghazi, he said. And ISIL fighters’ numbers are shrinking in Sirte, he noted.

“We have seen those forces work very effectively to collapse ISIL’s control down to a very small area, which really comprises the city center of Sirte,” Davis said. “As they’ve gotten that far, they needed help getting across the finish line. This is a chance for us to help them.”

(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)