ISIS survives in Libya. @ThomasJoscelyn @BillROggio @FollowFDD

Jul 25, 2017, 03:47 AM

07-24-2017 (Photo: ... Libya crisis 2012, September - October | by EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid) Twitter: @BatchelorShow

ISIS survives in Libya. @ThomasJoscelyn @BillROggio @FollowFDD

Still, taken at face value, the figures cited by the State Department suggest that the Islamic State could still have a significant footprint inside Libya. And we wouldn’t be surprised if this is the case. On a per capital basis, Libya and Tunisia exported as many foreign fighters (or more) than any other countries for the war in Iraq and the follow-on conflicts. And the Islamic State made Libya one of its top priorities from 2014 to 2016, reversing these flows by sending some fighters back to their home countries in North Africa.

In 2014, as the State Department reminds readers, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi “dispatched a group of ISIS operatives from Syria to Libya to establish a branch of the terrorist group.” They first “set up a base in” Derna, but lost their hub there after being defeated by rival, al Qaeda-linked jihadists. (The Islamic State exaggerated its strength, before eventually conceding defeat in 2016.) Baghdadi “formally” recognized the group’s Libyan arm in Nov. 2014 “after announcing he had accepted oaths of allegiance from fighters in the country.”

The US hunted down some of the personnel dispatched by Baghdadi in 2015, including Abu Nabil al Anbari (aka Wissam Najm Abd Zayd al Zubaydi) in November of that year. The Defense Department described al Anbari as “an Iraqi national who was a longtime al Qaeda operative and the senior [Islamic State] leader in Libya.” Other senior Islamic State personnel were deployed to the country as well. The jihadists’ effort became so important that US officials began to openly worry that Baghdadi’s men could use Libya as a fallback zone as they lost ground in Iraq and Syria.

Between Aug. 1 and Dec. 19, 2016, US Africa Command conducted “495 precision airstrikes against Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices, heavy guns, tanks, command and control centers and fighting positions” as part of Operation Odyssey Lightning. The operation was conducted in conjunction with the Libyan Government of Nation Accord (GNA), which backed the militiamen that made up most of the ground forces. GNA “reports suggested” significant losses on the anti-Islamic State side, according to State, with “more than 700 fighters from GNA-aligned forces” killed and 3,200 others wounded “during the seven‑month-long campaign against ISIS.”

In Jan. 2017, the US bombed two Islamic State training camps south of Sirte, citing the presence of the group’s “external plotters.” The Defense Department estimated that dozens of jihadists were killed. Subsequent reporting revealed that the “external plotters” were connected to planned attacks in Europe.

But that wasn’t the end of the Islamic State’s presence in Libya, as the jihadists had cadres sprinkled throughout the country.

“At the end of 2016,” Foggy Bottom says, the self-declared caliphate’s arm “was no longer in control of any towns in Libya, but its members continued to operate throughout the eastern, southern, and western regions of the country.” The jihadists “also carried out attacks in Tripoli and Benghazi.”

In December, the Islamic State’s Rumiyah magazine, which is published in multiple languages, carried an interview with Sheikh Abu Hudhayfah al Muhajir, who was identified as the group’s leader in Libya. The “detachments of the mujahidin” are “spread today throughout the deserts of Libya,” Muhajir claimed, and they will make their enemies “taste severe hardship.” He vowed that they “will reclaim the cities and areas once more, by Allah’s power and strength.”

Muhajir was asked about the Islamic State’s strength in “regions outside of Sirte.” He claimed that the number of “mujahid brothers in the Libyan wilayat [province] continue to be…abundant.” Their “cove...