ISIS Counterattack Aims to Push Libya ‘Unity Govt’ Out of Sirte

Unity Govt Focused on Reinforcing Positions Outside City

by Jason Ditz, June 19, 2016

Nine days after the Libyan unity government had predicted “full victory” over ISIS within a matter of 2-3 days, the fighting in Sirte continues, with ISIS bringing out “medium-sized weaponry” to try to push back forces loyal to the UN-backed government and push them out of the city.

Sirte is the largest ISIS-held city if Libya, and the centerpiece of a territory which spans much of the central coast. The most recent clash saw two government troops killed and five wounded, though they insist they eventually repelled the ISIS push.

At the same time, government spokesman Reda Issa suggested the focus right now was not offensive, but rather to “bolster positions on the outskirts of Sirte to reinforce the siege and provoke ISIS fighters to come out of hiding.”

ISIS is estimated to have 5,000 fighters in Libya, with a large chunk of them in Sirte. Given the unity government’s forces mostly consist of the old Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG), which was never built for offensive operations, it is unsurprising that the offensive isn’t the quick mop-up it was initially suggested to be.

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