South Libya Drone Strike Points to Growing US Military Action in the Sahel

Lack of disclosures leaves exact US policy in the region unclear

On Saturday, the US carried out a done strike in southwestern Libya, killing two people. The two slain people were not named, but US African Command (Africom) claimed they were members of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

The attack, and Africom’s response to it, is fueling speculation among analysts that this is key moment of a continued US escalation of the war against AQIM across the Sahel region in northern Africa. It also appears to be a continuation of Africom’s policy of not being forthcoming or open with the American public about what they’re doing.

Indeed, the Saturday attack wasn’t even publicly acknowledged until after the New York Times specifically asked Africom to comment on the incident. This is in keeping with Africom’s recent problem of keeping military exchanges a secret, nominally for security reasons.

When Africom did finally offer a statement on the incident, it wasn’t even accurate. The statement claimed two AQIM militants were killed in “the first airstrike” the US carried out against al-Qaeda in Libya. This is not true, because the US carried out another strike against an AQIM figure in June of 2015 in Eastern Libya.

Africom has shown an interest in getting more deeply involved in Libya, Niger, Mali, and other countries across Africa in recent years. How rapidly this is escalating is unclear, however, because we don’t know which details are true, and which incidents haven’t even been made public.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of