Josh Rogin writes: The U.S. war against Islamic State has not yet extended to Libya. But the terror group is rapidly expanding its presence and activities there, and the embattled government is asking for Washington to include Libya in its international fight against the Islamic extremists.
Top U.S. intelligence officials have publicly stated their concerns about IS expansion in North Africa, following the group’s ramping up of its public acts of mayhem. It has taken credit for the brazen attack on the Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli, which resulted in the death of 12 people including one American contractor. Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the House Armed Services Committee this week that “with affiliates in Algeria, Egypt, Libya, the group is beginning to assemble a growing international footprint that includes ungoverned and under-governed areas.”
That’s no surprise to the internationally recognized Libyan government in Tobruk, which has been battling IS in several Libyan cities, including Benghazi. (It is also in a civil war against a rival government in Tripoli, the capital, under Prime Minister Omar al-Hassi.) A top Tobruk government representative told U.S. officials during a visit to Washington this week that IS expansion in Libya is much worse than what is publicly understood.
“We are seeing an exponential growth of ISIS in Libya,” Aref Ali Nayed, Libya’s ambassador to the United Arab Emirates told me in an interview. “Libya, because of its resources, has become the ATM machine, the gas station, and the airport for ISIS. There is an unfortunate state of denial about all of this, and that is the most dangerous thing.” [Continue reading…]