Obama: 'It's in America's National Security Interests' to Help Libya Defeat ISIL

By Susan Jones | August 2, 2016 | 12:07 PM EDT

President Barack Obama speak during a joint news conference with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

(CNSNews.com) - President Obama said on Tuesday the United States military is helping Libya's fledgling government get rid of Islamic State terrorists who have established a stronghold in the city of Sirte because it's in U.S. national security interests.

"And at the request of that (Libyan) government, after they had already made significant progress against ISIL and had essentially pushed ISIL into a very confined area in and around Sirte, it is in America's national security interests in our fight against ISIL to make sure that they're able to finish the job," Obama said.

"And so we're working in partnership with them to assure that ISIL does not get a stronghold in Libya, even as a long process begins to establish a strong government and security system there.

"So the good news is that they recognize this terrorist organization in their midst is contrary to their national interests as well as the world's, and we're hopeful that having completed this process in driving ISIL out, they will then be in a position to start to bring the parties together inside that country, and not only us but the Europeans and other countries around the world have a great interest in seeing stability in Libya because that -- the absence of stability has helped to fuel some of the challenges that we've seen in terms of the migration crisis in Europe and some of the humanitarian tragedies that we've seen in the open seas between Libya and Europe."

At a joint news conference with the leader of Singapore, Obama was asked by a reporter if the U.S. airstrikes on ISIL targets in Libya are a "direct result" of his decision to topple Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi.

"I have said on several occasions that we did the right thing in preventing what could have been a massacre, a bloodbath, in Libya, and we did so as part of an international coalition and under U.N. mandate," Obama replied.

"But I think that all of us collectively were not sufficiently attentive to what had to happen the day after and the day after and the day after that in order to ensure that there were strong structures in place to assure basic security and peace inside of Libya.

"I think the good news is, we now have the beginnings of a government, the GNA, they are serious about trying to bring all the factions together to start creating a basic security structure and to begin to monitor these borders and to cooperate internationally to deal with issues like ISIL penetration of their territory."

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