News / Africa

    US to Forge 2nd Coalition to Stop IS Growth in Africa

    FILE - Libya Dawn fighters search for Islamic State militant positions during a patrol near Sirte.
    FILE - Libya Dawn fighters search for Islamic State militant positions during a patrol near Sirte.

    U.S. officials are pushing a select group of allies to expand their sights beyond Iraq and Syria in the global effort to destroy the Islamic State (IS) terror group.

    Spurred on by IS's growing strength in Libya as well as the deadly terror attacks in Paris this past November, U.S. officials see a clear need for a broader, more comprehensive approach.

    "They have talked about it," a Western diplomat told VOA on condition of anonymity. "There are discussions on their side."

    Those discussions have become more urgent as intelligence shows an increasing number of IS fighters and recruits making their way to Libya from across North Africa, parts of east Africa and the Sahel.

    Libya attack

    Already, Libya is home to what U.S. intelligence officials consider IS's most lethal affiliate, with an estimated 5,000 fighters, steadily expanding from the group's stronghold in the town of Sirte. This past Monday, an estimated 50 IS militants launched an attack in Ben Guerdan, along the Libyan-Tunisian border, killing 55 people.

    Top U.S. military officials have identified Britain, France, Italy, Germany and Spain as key partners in the fight against IS in Libya.

    FILE - Civilians and security personnel stand at the scene of an explosion at a police station in Tripoli, Libya, a blast later claimed by militants professing loyalty to Islamic State, March 12, 2015.
    FILE - Civilians and security personnel stand at the scene of an explosion at a police station in Tripoli, Libya, a blast later claimed by militants professing loyalty to Islamic State, March 12, 2015.

    "We, as part of that international community, have to do more," the Africa Command commander, Army Gen. David Rodriguez, warned the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.

    "The international community has to take action to halt the expansion, degrade it and eventually defeat it," he added.

    Nothing concrete

    But those with knowledge of the U.S. discussions about a broader coalition strategy caution they have yet to coalesce into any concrete proposals.

    "Our government's extremely concerned about the growing extremist threat in Libya," said a Western official whose government is "working closely" with the U.S.

    The official added that, despite a desire to develop a comprehensive approach, it is "a little too early to say what the support might look like."

    "It's clear a number of states are now actively working to counter ISIL in coordination outside of Iraq and Syria," said Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. ISIL is an acronym for Islamic State.

    "But how big a coalition, how sustained it will be is the question," he said.

    For now, it seems Washington is counting on a consensus on the need to fight IS wherever it tries to take hold to keep pushing a broader effort forward.

    FILE - A man loyal to the Libyan armed forces prepares himself for clashes with Islamic State group militants west of Benghazi, March 7, 2016.
    FILE - A man loyal to the Libyan armed forces prepares himself for clashes with Islamic State group militants west of Benghazi, March 7, 2016.

    "I see a common view," chief White House Counterterrorism Adviser Lisa Monaco told an audience at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington this past week. "There's a recognition that ISIL poses a distinct threat to European countries."

    Obstacles

    But gaining support for any proposal may prove difficult.

    "Our forces are completely stretched," said the Western diplomat, who spoke to VOA on condition of anonymity. "It's difficult now for us to intervene more."

    There also appear to be differences on timing.

    While the U.S., Britain, Italy and France all have forces in Libya, their roles have been limited. The U.S., in particular, has confined its special forces to looking for partners on the ground once a unity government is established.

    The concern is that use of military force before a Government of National Accord is firmly in place could undermine the country's political transition.

    Yet the process has been dragging on, and some U.S. officials, including CIA Director John Brennan, have warned against waiting too long.

    "You cannot put off the kind of terrorism operations as this long process of government building continues to take place," Brennan told lawmakers late last month.

    Finding partners is also problematic.

    FILE - Militants from the so-called Islamic State stand behind what are said to be Ethiopian Christians in Libya, in this still image from an undated video posted to a social media website on April 19, 2015.
    FILE - Militants from the so-called Islamic State stand behind what are said to be Ethiopian Christians in Libya, in this still image from an undated video posted to a social media website on April 19, 2015.

    "There is no group on the ground currently that cares enough about ISIS in Sirte or has that effort up high enough on its priority list to actually hit ISIS in its core terrain," said Harleen Gambhir, a counterterrorism analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, using another acronym for Islamic State.

    Too late?

    Others fear too much time has already gone by for a coalition of U.S. and European countries to halt IS's expansion.

    "This might be too little too late," said Michael Horowitz of the Levantine Group.

    "ISIS has been able to largely expand to North Africa and south of it, using its Libyan colonies both as an entry point for its militants and as a magnet for local militants already operating inside the African continent," he said.

    Others see another potential problem: The use of military force, however coordinated it may be, can still backfire.

    "The concern is that implementing counterterrorism tactics in order to fight this group will not actually defeat it and might make it more resilient," said American Enterprise Institute Research Fellow Katherine Zimmerman.

    "We've seen this happen with al-Qaida globally, where airstrikes have certainly degraded the leadership but the groups themselves have become more resilient in terms of regenerating their capabilities," she said. "ISIS is likely able to do the same."


    Jeff Seldin

    Jeff works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is national security correspondent. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @jseldin or on Google Plus.

    You May Like

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: meanbill from: USA
    March 09, 2016 11:20 PM
    [In only 4 months], Russia showed the US and NATO how to defeat the terrorists, [with Russian warplanes providing close in air support for the Syrian, Hezbollah and Iranian fighters on the ground in a blitzkrieg attack on all the terrorists in Syria? .. And now? .. After 15 years of failure, and never defeating any of the terrorist groups, (even the smallest), the US now wants to copy that Russian winning anti-terrorist tactics and strategy, [but], the US is finding it almost impossible to find enough non-US and non-NATO ground troops to do the fighting for them? .. pitiful isn't it? .. and strange?

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora