The US military has acknowledged that its Special Operations troops are active in Libya, following a report which revealed their presence in the war-torn North African country.
The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that a number of US forces are providing direct, on-the-ground support to forces loyal to Libya's unity government in a fight against the Daesh (ISIL) terrorist group.
Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Gordon Trowbridge said on Wednesday a "small number" of American forces are going “in and out” of Libya.
"As with any military operation supporting another force, coordination and synchronization of effort is essential. To that end, a small number of US forces have gone in and out of Libya to exchange information with these local forces in established joint operations centers, and they will continue to do so as we strengthen the fight against [ISIL] and other terrorist organizations," Trowbridge said.
The spokesman claimed that the forces are stationed in joint operations rooms, which are away from the front line, to facilitate coordination among pro-government forces fighting against Daesh terrorists.
American troops are operating out of a joint operations center established on the city’s outskirts and their role is only limited to supporting pro-government forces, US officials told the Washington Post, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the Pentagon has not announced the deployment publicly.
The Pentagon announced on August 1 that it had expanded its air war against Daesh, conducting airstrikes in Libya to target the ISIL stronghold of Sirte.
At the time, US military officials did not acknowledge that American forces were on the ground supporting the air operations. The acknowledgement came following the Washington Post report.
"I can tell you those [reports] are not true," Trowbridge insisted. "They are not on the front lines, nor are they on the ground in Sirte."
He said the forces are rather providing "unique capabilities.”
“Notably intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) and precision strikes — that will help enable GNA-aligned forces to make a decisive, strategic advance,” the Pentagon spokesman stated.
"These strikes are targeting key ISIL military infrastructure such as tanks, high-caliber weapons, and command and control nodes using precision ordnance," Trowbridge said.
Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) has announced the strikes, but has denounced the presence of foreign troops as “violation” of the country’s sovereignty.
Sirte, the major stronghold of Daesh outside Iraq and Syria, fell to the Takfiri terrorists in February 2015. The full recapture of the city would be a major boost to the unity government, which has come to office through support from the United Nations.
Daesh has been taking advantage of the chaos embroiling Libya since the NATO-backed overthrow and death of longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
According to Africa Command, the United States has conducted 29 airstrikes against Daesh positions in Libya since August 1.