Monday, August 08, 2016

FIGHTING ISIS - President's Pentagon Meeting

"Obama appears at Pentagon to discuss strategy for countering ISIS" PBS NewsHour 8/4/2016


SUMMARY:  President Obama spoke at the Pentagon Thursday about the U.S.  plan for continued military action in Libya.  His report came three days after the U.S. launched airstrikes in and around Sirte, in an attempt to reclaim the Islamic State stronghold.  Gwen Ifill speaks with Frederic Wehrey, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, for more.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  The chaos in Libya after the fall of Moammar Gadhafi created a vacuum, filled in part by the Islamic State.  Now the United States is stepping up pressure on the group's stronghold there with new attacks launched this week.

Foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner begins our coverage.

MARGARET WARNER (NewsHour):  President Obama visited the Pentagon today to confer with his military leadership about the battle against the Islamic State.

He had this to say about the newest U.S. military front in that fight in Libya.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:  At the request of Libya's government of national accord, we are conducting strikes in support of government-aligned forces as they fight to retake Sirte from ISIL, and we will continue to support the government's efforts to secure their country.

MARGARET WARNER:  The meeting came three days after the U.S. launched a series of air and drone strikes against the Islamic State's Libyan stronghold, in and around the town of Sirte.  The U.S. air campaign comes in support of a Libyan government-backed coalition of brigades and militias fighting ISIS on the ground.

Those forces have taken heavy casualties trying to clear the town block by block, pushing ISIS fighters into the city center.

MAN (through translator):  Despite the obstacles and difficulties we have faced, such as land mines, booby traps and snipers, we have made good progress forward.

MARGARET WARNER:  But their slow going prompted the U.N. and Western-backed Libyan government in Tripoli to request the U.S. support.  The Tripoli government isn't the only one claiming legitimate rule in the country.  It has a competitor in the east.

In Benghazi, renegade General Khalifa Haftar has been fighting Islamists and other rival militias for supremacy there.  He rejects the Tripoli government's claim to power.  But for now, the U.S. military is focused on the fight for Sirte, at the heart of the Islamic State's bid to make Libya its most important outpost outside of Iraq and Syria.

For the “PBS NewsHour,” I'm Margaret Warner.

GWEN IFILL:  Joining me now for more on this is Frederic Wehrey of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.  He's just returned from a research trip to the front lines of the battle for Sirte.  He was embedded with government-backed militias as they battled Islamic State fighters.

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