Fighters for the
Training camps with several hundred Islamic State fighters have been spotted in parts of eastern Libya, and some U.S. intelligence reports suggest a new presence for the militant group near Tripoli, in the country’s west, U.S. officials disclosed in recent days.
Although the officials say no immediate military response is planned, the appearance of the camps is giving new impetus to a debate about whether the United States eventually will need to expand its campaign against the militants beyond Iraq and Syria.
Islamic State “is exploiting vast, ungoverned spaces in Libya,” Sen.
In 2011, the Obama administration organized the NATO air campaign that led to the downfall of former Libyan leader
But the growth of a terrorist threat in a chaotic country about the size of Texas stirs alarm in Washington. Such a threat was a chief danger cited by critics of the 2011 intervention, including former Defense Secretary
The militants appear to have multiple training camps in eastern Libya, officials said. The groups in Libya apparently don’t include higher-ranking Islamic State fighters preparing terrorist operations, officials said.
Retired U.S. Marine Gen.
Fighters in Libya who have sworn allegiance to the group are in control of a portion of the eastern coastal city of Derna. They are patrolling the area to try to enforce Islamic morality, and they have set up Islamic courts and raised the group’s black flag.
Frederic Wehrey, a longtime Libya analyst at the
There are several reasons not to get involved, he said. The United States could complicate the United Nations-led effort to broker a peace deal if Americans appeared to take sides in Libya’s civil war, he said.
And there is the risk of another entanglement in a messy open-ended conflict.
The apparent creation of a new terrorist base “pushes all the buttons in Washington, but we have to make sure they’re not pushed in a way where we get entangled,” he said.
U.S. officials, who are operating from the embassy in Malta because of the risks of operating in Libya, have generally been cautious in their involvement with the North African country. They have delayed plans to begin training a Libyan force until the country stabilizes, Wehrey said.
Some analysts warn that, unlike the United States, European countries can’t wait to act on Libya because the chaos there threatens the Mediterranean region with flows of refugees, arms and drugs, as well as Islamist militants.
Simple containment “could be enough to achieve the American strategic objectives, but it would not solve the problems for Europe,” said Wolfgang Pusztai, a longtime Libya analyst who is based in Vienna.
Times staff writer Brian Bennett contributed to this report.
Fighters for the