U.S. airstrikes target Sirte, Libya, an Islamic State stronghold

WASHINGTON, Aug. 1 (UPI) — U.S. airstrikes hit the Islamic State stronghold of Sirte, Libya, the Pentagon said Monday, the first direct U.S. involvement in aiding Libyan troops.

The attack on the coastal town in support of government military forces came at the request of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said. The U.N-recognized government is one of two claiming to lead the country.

“These strikes were authorized by the president following a recommendation from [Defense] Secretary [Ashton] Carter and [Joint Chiefs of Staff] Chairman [John] Dunford. They are consistent with our approach to combating ISIL by working with capable and motivated local forces,” Cook said Monday, using an alternate acronym for the Islamic State.

Cook said the United States would continue to target the Islamic State in Sirte “in order to enable to the GNA to make a decisive, strategic advance.”

On July 18 Dunford said he was he was encouraged by developments against the Islamic State in Libya, noting it has been severely weakened.

Manned and unmanned aircraft conducted multiple strikes on Sirte, a senior U.S. defense official told The Washington Post, where IS insurgents have established well-defended positions.

The U.S. actions mark an expansion of the war against IS in Libya. Although U.S. airstrikes are prominent in military campaigns in Iraq and Syria, U.S. aerial involvement in Libya, prior to Monday, was limited to a small number of targeted airstrikes.

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