US-Russian marines set up bridgehead in E. Libya for campaign against ISIS
President Barack Obama resolved earlier this month, much to the surprise of Washington insiders, to open a third anti-terror front in Libya to eradicate the Islamic Front’s tightening grip on the country.
This top-secret decision was first revealed by DEBKA Weekly 692 on Jan. 1.
While collaborating with Russia in the Syrian arena, and with the Iranians and the Iraqi army and Sunnis in Iraq, Obama took his close aides by surprise by another decision – to lead the Libya campaign again in conjunction with Russia, as well as with concerned Western Europe allies.
The first step in this campaign took place this weekend: A group of US, Russian, French and Italian Special Forces quietly landed at a point south of Tobruk near the Libyan-Egyptian frontier. Standing by after preparing the ground were some 1,000 British SAS troops.
The landing area is located some 144 kilometers from Darnah, the main bastion of extremist Libyan Islamic groups linked to Al Qaeda or ISIS, of which the ultra-violent Ansar al Sharia is the most powerful.
The joint US-Russian war offensive building up in Libya, the first such collaboration in many decades, may be seen as an extension of their expanding military partnership in Syria, debkafile’s military sources report.
Preparations for the campaign were assigned to two special operational commands set up at the Pentagon and at the US Central Command, CENTCOM, in Tampa, Florida.
According to the scenario sketched in advance by DEBKA Weekly, large-scale US air, naval and ground units are to spearhead the new coalition’s combined assault on the main Libyan redoubts of ISIS, Al Qaeda, Ansar al-Sharia and other radical Islamist organizations. Cruise missiles strikes will blast them from US, British, French and Italian warships on the Mediterranean.
At the peak of the assault, large-scale US, British and French marines will land on shore for an operation first billed as the largest allied war landing since the 1952 Korean War. The attachment of Russian forces was negotiated later.
According to this scenario, one group will be dropped ashore from the Gulf of Sidra (see attached map) to seize the town of Sirte, a city of 50,000, where ISIS has located its central military command center in Libya.
This group will then split up into two task forces.
One will head south to take over Tripoli and its oil fields 370 kilometers away and reinstate Libya’s central government, which had been exiled to Tobruk, at its seat in the capital.
On its way to Tripoli, the force will take control of three renegade towns: Misrata, Zliten and Khoms.
The second task force will head north to capture the eastern Libyan capital of Benghazi, seizing Ras Lanuf, 200 kilometers east of Sirte, en route. A second marine force will meanwhile land in eastern Libya to capture the radical Islamist stronghold of Darnah, a port city with 150,000 inhabitants.
The Obama administration will therefore be going into Libya for the second time in four years – only this time up front and on the ground – for three objectives:
1. Control of Libya’s oil and gas fields.
2. Stripping ISIS of its jumping-off base for terrorizing Europe, especially Italy, from across the Mediterranean.
3. Saving Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco from the noose ISIS and Al Qaeda are pulling around them from their back yard.
The scenario was first published in DEBKA Weekly 692 (for subscribers) on Jan. 1, 2016