The United States is holding discussions with countries in North Africa about locating drones at a base there to heighten monitoring of the ultra-extremist militant group Islamic State (IS) in Libya, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on Sunday, citing a senior administration official.
Such a base near IS, also known by its Arabic acronym Da’ish, strongholds in Libya would help the US “fill gaps in our understanding of what’s going on” in that region, the official was quoted as saying. The newspaper said drone flights would give US military and intelligence agencies real-time information on the militant group’s activities in Libya.
Fighters allied with IS, commanders in Iraq and Syria have been gaining ground in Libya, where two rival governments are battling for control and militants have taken advantage of the security vacuum.
The journal, citing senior US officials, said no North African country had yet agreed to offer access to a base. It quoted officials as saying any such facility would likely be an existing base under the control of the host country, with the US receiving permission to place drones there along with a limited number of military personnel.
The US allies Egypt and Tunisia share borders with Libya. But WSJ reported administration officials declined to identify countries that could host US drones. The US military officials told the paper that drones launched from the proposed base could also be used in air strikes against Da’ish targets in Libya and that the base could be a launching point for special operations missions against militants.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 14th, 2015.