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Libya Airstrikes by U.A.E., Egypt Cited by Pentagon

Clashes in Libya
Smoke billows from buildings during clashes between Libyan security forces and armed Islamist groups in the eastern coastal city of Benghazi. Photographer: Abdullah Doma/AFP/Getty Images

Aug. 27 (Bloomberg) --The United Arab Emirates and Egypt were behind air attacks on militia forces in Libya over the past week, the Pentagon’s spokesman said, disapproving of the intervention.

“We discourage other nations from taking part in Libya’s issues through violence,” Rear Admiral John Kirby, the spokesman, told reporters yesterday. “We want the issues solved in Libya to be done peacefully and through good governance and politics and not violence.”

Libya has spiraled into chaos as rival militias have fought for power since the ouster of strongman Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. Pentagon officials last week said they had no knowledge who was behind an airstrike on militants in Libya.

“We’ve since gained more information,” Kirby said today, “and in light of this second strike over the weekend, we’ve been able to ascertain” that “it was conducted by U.A.E and by Egypt in some fashion.”

While U.S. officials joined their U.K., French, German and Italian counterparts in saying that such outside interference only exacerbates divisions in Libya, some Obama administration officials privately welcomed the Egyptian and U.A.E. airstrikes.

Speaking on condition of anonymity because they aren’t authorized to speak to the media, these officials said the strikes help buttress the administration’s argument that the battles in the Mideast are between the vast majority of Sunni Muslims and a small extremist minority, not between Islam and other faiths.

Extremists’ Narrative

In addition, these officials said, the strikes help undermine the notion that Islamic extremism has become an unstoppable force, an impression that they said is critical to the ability of Islamic State and other extremist groups to attract new recruits.

Public assertions that the U.S. knew nothing about the strikes, despite the fact that they were carried out with American-supplied weaponry, helps distance America from the conflict and counter the extremists’ narrative that the Sunni Arab states are American pawns, the official said.

Asked how the airstrikes in Libya, which were reported on Aug. 25 by the New York Times, differed from those the U.S. is conducting against the militant Islamic State in Iraq, Kirby said “We’re there at the request of the Iraqi government. This wasn’t some unilateral decision by the United States to strike targets inside Iraq.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Tony Capaccio in Washington at; John Walcott in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: John Walcott at Larry Liebert

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