(CNSNews.com) - President Obama authorized "precision airstrikes in Libya last night," destroying two ISIS camps near the city of Sirte, the Defense Department announced on Thursday morning.
“While we are still evaluating the results of the strikes, the initial assessment indicates they were successful,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a statement. “This action was authorized by the president as an extension of the successful operation the U.S. military conducted last year to support Libyan forces in freeing Sirte from ISIL control.”
On August 1, 2016, the U.S. military struck ISIS targets inside Sirte, trying to prevent them from establishing a stronghold outside of Syria and Iraq. And before that, the U.S. targeted ISIS leaders in Libya -- once in November 2015 and then again in February 2016.
In the most recent attack, the U.S. targeted terrorists who fled from Sirte to remote desert camps "to reorganize, and they posed a security threat to Libya, the region, and U.S. national interests," Cook said.
A short time later, Defense Secretary Ash Carter told reporters, "Initial estimates indicate that the air strikes killed more than 80 ISIL fighters, many of whom had converged there after fleeing from local partner forces who had cleared Sirte last month, with our help."
Carter said the strikes were directated aginst ISIS' external plotters, "who were activelly planning operations aginst our allies in Europe."
He also told reporters that as long as Libya's civil war continues, "the Libyans don't have unity. If they did, I think they themselves could make short work of ISIL. For now, under these conditions, our help is invaluable."
Libya spiralled into chaos following U.S.-led military intervention in 2011.
Hillary Clinton was secretary of state when the U.S. participated in a NATO campaign of airstrikes, initially designed to save Libyan civilians under attack from the regime. Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi was killed by rebel militiamen that October, and Libya devolved into warring factions. It has never recovered.
A Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi killed the U.S. ambassador, a foreign service officer and two Navy Seals.
Nevertheless, during one of the Democratic primary debates, Hillary Clinton described the 2011 U.S. intervention in Libya as "smart power at its best.” She added that “President Obama made the right decision at the time.” Clinton had argued for the intervention.
Since then, Islamic State terrorists have spread into Libya's ungoverened spaces.
Cook, in his statement, said the United States remains prepared to further support Libyan efforts to counter terrorist threats and to defeat ISIL in Libya. We are committed to maintaining pressure on ISIL and preventing them from establishing safe haven."
He also said the strikes "will degrade ISIL's ability" to attack Libyan forces and civilians who are trying to "stabilize" the city of Sirte.
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