The US Marines are taking the fight to the ISIS over the skies of Libya with AH-1W Cobra attack helicopters, providing deadly close air support for friendly militias on the ground.
According to Military Times, Africa Command reports that US airstrikes destroyed over twenty-five enemy fighting positions, as well as two supply trucks.
The Cobras took off from the USS Wasp, an amphibious assault ship that has been in the Mediterranean Sea for several weeks, according to a defense official with knowledge of the operation, which is the first of its kind to reveal Cobras being used in strikes over Libya.
The current operation -known as Operation Odyssey Lighting- began on August 1st and have mainly involved UAVs and AV-8B Harrier IIs that are currently embarked aboard the Wasp with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit.
AFRICOM reports that the strikes are sanctioned and “at the request of, and in coordination with, the Libyan Government of National Accord,” a small political body that sprung from Libya’s civil war. While the GNA is recognized and supported by both the US and UN, it is less than popular in Libya.
The Islamic State took advantage of the civil war in Libya, setting up a base of operations in the coastal city of Sirte in 2015. While there were an estimated 6,000 militants in Libya, US officials say that number has been whittled down to only several hundred in a matter of months. In addition, local reports indicate that ISIS has lost a great deal of control in the area over the past several weeks.
The airstrikes are the most significant US operation in Libya since the 2011 air campaign that helped unseat dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
While small American “contact teams” have been in and out of Libya to gather intel and meet with local militias, the US will not confirm whether or not there is significant US ground presence in Libya.
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