07:37 GMT11 August 2020
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    Africa Command (AFRICOM) nominee Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser is vocally supporting a heavier American military presence in Libya, testifying before Congress that he is "not aware of any overall grand strategy at this point,” in the north African country.

    Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) asked Waldhauser if he thought it was wise to have the ability to order drone strikes without the blessing of the White House. The military official stated that, "It would be wise, it would certainly contribute to what we're trying to do inside Libya." He added that the Daesh presence in Libya poses "an imminent threat to the United States," and asserted that not bombing the country "doesn’t make sense." 

    Graham thanked Waldhauser for his testimony, remarking, "I can't thank you — I'm just — that's about as direct testimony as I've ever heard from this committee."

    Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) echoed Graham’s praise, saying "General Waldhauser, I want to thank you for your candor before the committee, we look forward to working with you. I think that Sen. Graham's questions clearly indicated that, at least as far as [Daesh] is concerned, that Africa is their next target of opportunity, and I think you are going to need a lot of help."  

    Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook responded to Waldhauser’s testimony in a news conference on Tuesday. "It's clear," Cook stated, "as I think Gen. Waldhauser acknowledged, it's a complicated situation right now. And the most important thing in terms of our policy, and we believe for the region's policy, is for [the Libyan government] to take shape, take hold. And we'd like to, of course, be in a position to strengthen it as needed, going forward, along with our partners in the region." 

    Cook stated that, "We don't make a decision to carry out a military strike lightly," and that, "[The US military] has been willing to take strikes in the past in Libya targeting [Daesh] leadership…. [The Libyan government] is showing progress. Military forces aligned with the government are showing progress as well, particularly in the fight against [Daesh] in Sirte." In the past the Pentagon has acknowledged small Special Operations teams on the ground in Libya to build relationships with indigenous anti-Daesh forces.

    CIA Director John Brennan claims that there are currently some 5,000-8,000 Daesh combatants in Libya. The US has held back on bombing Daesh in Libya in the past few months, but has conducted airstrikes against the terrorist group. In February, one of these airstrikes was said to have killed 40 Daesh operatives.

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    Tags:
    Daesh, airstrike, Libya, AFRICOM, AFRICOM, Lindsey Graham, Thomas Waldhauser, John McCain, Libya, United States
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