AFRICOM Commander Says U.S. Should Do More to Stop Spread of ISIS in Libya

By Jose R. Gonzalez | March 8, 2016 | 4:00 PM EST
Screenshot from a Dec. 20, 2015 video purportedly depicting the training of "Islamic police" in Sirte, Libya posted online by supporters of the Tripoli Province of the Islamic State (ISIS). (AP photo)

(CNSNews.com) - The United States should do more to combat the expansion of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Libya, the head of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) told the Senate Armed Services Committee during a hearing on Tuesday.

“Yes, I think that we as part of the international community, we have to do more. Yes, sir,” Gen. David Rodriguez said after he was pressed for a “yes” or “no” answer by Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.), who asked him: “Do you think we’re doing enough now to stop the spread, particularly the expansion in Libya?”

“The spread in Libya continues to be a challenge because of a lack of governance, as well as the breakup of the military and the multiple militias on the ground and we continue to develop our situational understanding,” Rodriguez responded.

“My question was, ‘Do you think we need to do more?’” McCain asked.

“I think the international community and the Libyans all have to do more, yes,” the general continued.

“I’m not asking about the international community. I’m ask about the United States of America,” McCain pressed him.

Rodriguez then answered in the affirmative.

According to The New York Times, ISIS’ ranks in Libya have swollen to 6,500 as a result of its fighters fleeing from U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.

After the successful overthrow of Libyan dictator Col. Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 by NATO-assisted rebels, various militias have tried to take advange of the power vacuum there.

In his sworn testimony to the committee, Rodriguez addressed the instability in Libya, noting that Islamist groups took over in North Africa after the so-called Arab Spring rebellions in the region.   

"Foreign fighters, arms, and illegal migrants are flowing through Libya, supplying fighters to the Syrian and Iraq conflicts, and threatening our North African partners and Southern European allies... The continued absence of central government control will continue to perpetuate violence, instability, and allow the conditions for violent extremist organizations to flourish," the general testified.

“In North Africa, our priority is to contain Libyan instability and to counter violent extremist organizations. The post-Arab Spring transitions have fundamentally altered the regional security landscape. Terrorist groups like the Islamic State-Libya (IS-Libya) have exploited this instability and have expanded their training and operations,” Rodriguez stated.

In a Sept. 21, 2011 speech to the United Nations General Assembly in which he said that "the tide of war is receding," President Obama boasted that "forty-two years of tryanny [in Libya] was ended in six months. From Tripoli to Misurata to Benghazi -- today, Libya is free.... 

"This is how the international community is supposed to work - nations standing together for the sake of peace and security, and individuals claiming their rights," Obama said.