Having declared their military operation in Libya over a month ago, US stealth bombers flew to the Libyan city of Sirte and spent some 30 hours carrying out a massive bombing campaign, dropping over 100 munitions on camps on the city’s outskirts, and killing over 80 people.
The Pentagon insists that everyone killed in the attacks was not only an ISIS fighter, but that they were “external plotters,” all of whom were “actively plotting operations in Europe.” They did not indicate how they could possibly have known this was the case.
The short answer, though, is that having already declared victory in Libya, the Pentagon would’ve needed some pretext to launch such a big aerial offensive into the country again, and the claim of active plots against Europe neatly fits that role, whether true or not.
Bigger questions remain, however, like why the US felt the need to use a pair of stealth bombers to launch airstrikes in Libya when they spent much of 2016 bombing Libya with more conventional US warplanes that didn’t have to fly half-way around the world to get there.
This marks the first time the US has used such bombers at all since 2011, when they participated in the NATO war that imposed regime change on Libya in the first place. The bombers can carry a lot of bombs, and have longer flight times, in addition to their stealth capabilities, but they were also much farther away than other options that the US has tended to use in the region.
Moreover, it seems strange that such large collections of ISIS “plotters” would be loitering around on the outskirts of Sirte at all, since the US military operations in Libya centered on helping the “unity” government occupy Sirte, and ended with large numbers of supposed “trapped” ISIS fighters successfully fleeing. It seems they didn’t go far.
The US began it’s last military offensive in Libya on August 1, 2016, and extended it through December 20. The operation more or less exclusively centered on Sirte, which was at the time ISIS’ de facto capital in the country. The last couple of months of the operation saw ISIS holed up in a tiny neighborhood along the coast, supposedly “trapped,” and supposedly the last real ISIS bastion in the country. ISIS appears to retain a significant presence in the country.