The U.S. and allies are favorable to arms requests by the Libyan government
But Secretary of State John Kerry says it has to be done carefully
The United States and other allied nations say they will work to provide Libya’s internationally recognized government with weapons officials there say are needed to battle ISIS and other militant groups gaining strength.
The Libyan Government of National Accord said it would submit requests to be exempted from UN arms embargoes currently in place to acquire lethal arms and material in order to counter UN-designated terrorist groups like ISIS.
Secretary of State John Kerry noted the “delicate balance” of providing such arms during a press conference with the Italian foreign minister and Libyan Prime Minister in Vienna, Austria, on Monday following an international meeting to offer support to the Government of National Accord.
“We are, all of us here today, supportive of the fact that if you have a legitimate government and the legitimate government is struggling against terrorism, that legitimate government should not be made the prisoner or it should not be victimized by virtue of the UN action that has been taken that has always awaited a legitimate government,” Kerry said. “So we believe it makes sense, but obviously, carefully sculpted. And that’s what we will make sure we do.”
Libya has become a focal point of concern for the United States as chaos and the lack of a functioning central government have allowed for groups like ISIS to take advantage of Libya’s ungoverned spaces and establish a presence there.
It is estimated that there are 6,000 ISIS fighters in Libya.
U.S. Special Forces are operating in Libya as well as other locations across the Middle East and North Africa to try and prevent ISIS as well as al Qaeda and its affiliates from developing a toehold.
“There are small teams of U.S. forces that are on the ground effectively meeting and getting a better sense of the players on the ground, so that we have a sense of, for example, ISIL’s presence in Libya,” and its “level of strength and the level of strength,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook told reporters Monday.
“These are small groups of Americans who have maintained a small presence in Libya for that specific purpose,” Cook said.