US special forces have been on the ground in Libya for months, though when the war against ISIS was expanded into the country last week with airstrikes on Sirte, Pentagon officials were quick to insist that there was no ground component to the new operation. That didn’t last long.
Now, officials are conceding that a “small number” of special forces are operating out of a unity government base on the outskirts of Sirte, supporting the ongoing attempts by the unity government’s forces to conquer the city, as well as forwarding targeting information to US warplanes bombing the city.
Details are still scant, and the officials quoted in the media on the matter insisted on anonymity, because officially the ground forces’ involvement in the war hasn’t been formally announced. The troops were originally sent to Libya to find potential allies for a war that officials had been talking about launching for a long time.
Ultimately, the US appears to have settled on the unity government as a faction to back, primarily because they were the ones who asked first, though they are but one of several would-be governments in the country, and other Western nations keen to get involved have been throwing their own support behind the Tobruk parliament. Though these two governments are both UN-backed they don’t like one another, meaning early plans for a joint Western war are in an uncertain state.