WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama directed his national security advisers on Thursday to counter efforts by Islamic State to expand into Libya and other countries, the White House said.
Islamic State militants have taken advantage of chaos in Libya to establish themselves in the city of Sirte, and they have carried out several attacks on oil installations this month.
“The President directed his national security team to continue efforts to strengthen governance and support ongoing counterterrorism efforts in Libya and other countries where ISIL has sought to establish a presence,” the White House statement said, using an acronym for Islamic State.
Earlier on Thursday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter told a news conference that Islamic State was establishing training sites in Libya and welcoming foreign fighters the way it had done in Iraq and Syria in years past.
“And we don’t want to be on a glide slope to a situation like Syria and Iraq. That’s the reason why we’re watching it that closely. That’s the reason why we develop options for what we might do in the future.”
On Wednesday, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said the United States had already sent “a small number of military personnel” into Libya to try to “to engage in conversations with local forces to get a clearer picture of exactly what’s happening there.”
“We’re looking at military options,” Cook said, according to a transcript of his news conference on the Department of Defense website.
The political chaos in Libya has slowed the international community’s ability to partner with the loose alliances of armed brigades of rebels who once fought veteran leader Muammar Gaddafi, who was overthrown in 2011.
Reporting by Eric Walsh and Phil Stewart; Editing by Eric Beech