Rodriguez Warns Of ISIS Training Sites in Libya

Fighters from the Islamic State group parade in their northern Syrian stronghold, Raqqa. AP/Raqqa Media Center
Fighters from the Islamic State group parade in their northern Syrian stronghold, Raqqa. AP/Raqqa Media Center

The U.S. is considering plans to attack groups in Libya that support the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) military group and have set up training camps in the eastern part of the country, Army Gen. David Rodriguez said Wednesday.

"They've put training camps out there," said Rodriguez, head of U.S. Africa Command.

 U.S. intelligence thus far has an unclear picture on the nature and numbers of the group but "right now it's small and very nascent," Rodriguez said. "The intelligence communities are still looking at it."

"We think it's just militias trying to make a name for themselves" by claiming to be adherents of ISIS, Rodriguez said. He said there were no plans "right now" to take military action against the camps but "that policy discussion is ongoing."

Rodriguez said the U.S. believes several hundred ISIS sympathizers were at the training sites but he stressed that "we don't have a precise assessment" given the lack of U.S. personnel on the ground following the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli earlier this year amid the chaos in Libya.

A range of militias with conflicting ideologies and agendas have competed in a bloody struggle for power in Libya since the downfall of dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

In the years since, Libya has moved from being a dictatorship to a "non-state," Bernardino Leon, the United Nations special envoy for Libya, told the European parliament Tuesday.

Speaking a day before Rodriguez, Leon, who is attempting to set up reconciliation talks among the rival groups, also said that terror groups were setting up training groups in several parts of the country.

In Brussels, Secretary of State John Kerry and his counterparts from France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Britain issued a joint statement of "grave concern" on the situation in Libya. They also praised Leon's efforts to set up peace talks next week.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@military.com.

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