The Pentagon announced Monday it had begun airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS) Libyan stronghold of Sirte, an expansion of the U.S. air campaign against the terrorist group.
The U.S. military has conducted two previous airstrikes against specific ISIS targets in Libya, but the latest strikes are the first in support of the current Libyan government’s military campaign against ISIS.
The Pentagon said the support for the Libyan government could extend beyond the recent strikes.
“As we’ve said for some time, the United States supports the GNA [Government of National Accord, and] we would be prepared to carefully consider any request for military assistance,” said Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook.
“We have now responded to that request, and will continue to work closely with the GNA to help the government restore stability and security in Libya,” he added.
“We don’t have an endpoint at this particular moment in time,” said Cook about the length of the air campaign.
“But we’ll be working closely with the [Libyan government] and we certainly hope that this is something that does not require a lengthy amount of time,” he added.
Each strike that is part of the new mission will be approved by the commander of U.S. Africa Command, Cook said.
The U.S. has been striking ISIS in Iraq and Syria in support of local forces since the fall of 2014. Those strikes expanded into Afghanistan in January and now against ISIS in Sirte, Libya.
Some lawmakers expressed alarm over the U.S. military’s expanding role in the fight against ISIS, as well as the administration’s reliance on a 2001 war authorization that was intended for al Qaeda in the Afghanistan War.
“I am deeply concerned about the expansion of U.S. airstrikes in Libya. The U.S. military continues to become more engaged in the Middle East despite the lack of a congressional debate or specific authorization,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.).
“We must stop relying on an outdated and overly broad authorization that was passed nearly 15 years ago,” she added.