WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is being pressed by some of his top national security aides to approve the use of U.S. military power in Libya to open up another front against the Islamic State.
But Obama, wary of embarking on an intervention in another strife-torn country, has told his aides to redouble their efforts to help form a unity government in Libya at the same time the Pentagon refines its options, which include airstrikes, commando raids or advising vetted Libyan militias on the ground, as Special Operations forces are doing now in eastern Syria. The use of large numbers of U.S. ground troops is not being considered.
The debate, which played out in a meeting Obama had with his advisers last week, has not yet been resolved, nor have the size or contours of any possible U.S. military involvement been determined.
The New York Times, speaking to a senior State Department official, reported that the White House just has to decide because the case has been laid out by multiple departments. The source spoke on condition of anonymity.
The number of Islamic State fighters in Libya, Pentagon officials said this week, has grown to between 5,000 and 6,500 — more than double the estimate government analysts disclosed last fall. Rather than travel to Iraq or Syria, many new Islamic State recruits from across North Africa have remained in Libya officials told the newspaper.