Pentagon: Egypt, UAE Attacking Islamists in Libya Differs From US Bombing ISIS in Iraq
Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) carrying out airstrikes in Libya was different from U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant forces in Iraq, Pentagon spokesman Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby told a briefing, because the U.S. was acting in Iraq, in a “very targeted” manner, at the request of its government.
“This wasn’t some unilateral decision by the United States to strike targets inside Iraq.”
“We discourage other nations from taking a part in Libya’s issues through violence,” Kirby said. “We want the issues solved in Libya to be done peacefully and through good governance and politics and not violence.”
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He declined to “get into the specifics of our diplomatic discussions” with Egypt and the UAE over the airstrikes in Libya in recent days.
Libya’s slide into anarchy has alarmed neighboring Egypt and several Gulf states, who have voiced concern that chaos there will help to spread the jihadist threat in the region. An al-Qaeda-linked group, Ansar al-Shariah, controls most of Benghazi and another Islamist faction, Fajr (“Dawn”), seized the Tripoli airport at the weekend.
Qatar, whose backing for Islamists including the Muslim Brotherhood across the region has angered its Gulf neighbors, has funneled support to the Islamists in Libya.
Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia are believed to be supporting a former Gaddafi-regime chief of staff, Gen. Khalifa Hifter, who early this year declared war on the Islamist militias. The Islamists have accused him of being an “American agent,” although the State Department says the U.S. does not support him.
Asked why the U.S. would not view Egyptian and Emirate involvement in trying to tackle the problem as helpful, Kirby said the U.S. does not want “more violence on top of violence that’s already existing inside Libya. It’s already a tenuous enough security environment as it is.”
A peaceful, stable future for Libya would be in the interests of its people as well as “for that part of the world which has already got issues of security as it does,” he said. “But adding more violence onto it we don’t believe is the answer.”
Kirby was asked what the difference was between Libya and Iraq, where the U.S. is conducting airstrikes against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS/ISIL) forces.