As ISIS franchise in Libya continues to grow, and violence spills out from the country to the wider region, pressure is mounting for the U.S. to find a fix for what one official describes as a “blind spot” in North Africa. The solution? According to the WSJ, drones:
The U.S. is in talks with North African countries about positioning drones at a base on their soil to ramp up surveillance of Islamic State in Libya in what would be the most significant expansion of the campaign against the extremist group in the region.
The establishment of such a base would help eliminate what counterterrorism officials described as one of the last and most pressing intelligence “blind spots” facing U.S. and Western spy agencies. Washington and its allies are seeking to contain the expansion of Islamic State beyond Iraq and Syria, where a U.S.-led military campaign against the group is already under way.
“Right now, what we are trying to do is address some real intelligence challenges,” a senior administration official said. A base in North Africa close to Islamic State strongholds in Libya would help the U.S. “fill gaps in our understanding of what’s going on” there, the official added.
The report points out that the U.S. isn’t looking to build its own base, but rather to make use of a country’s pre-existing one to position its drone fleet and necessary personnel. Furthermore, the drones would likely be only unarmed at first, and used for intelligence gathering. However, U.S military officials have said that the base could also at some point be used for drone strikes and as a “launchpad” for military special operations.
The U.S. war in Libya was supposed to bring democracy and stability to North Africa, but it’s done the opposite. The country’s turmoil has served as a breeding ground for regional terrorism. In addition to reports that the gunmen from both the Sousse and Bardo Museum attacks were trained in Libya, reports also indicate that large numbers of ISIS fighters in the country have been flowing through Egypt in transit from Iraq and Syria. Moreover, terrorism and instability have kept tourists away from the artifacts and beaches of North Africa in record numbers.
Regrettably, the media has thus far been off its game on questioning presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton about her role in the war. As the Libyan afterparty continues, and the U.S. is drawn back to the country (in however modest a capacity), how much longer will she escape criticism for her support of the intervention?