The Keys to the Libyan Anti-ISIS Campaign

The months-long US operation targeting ISIS inside Libya did not cause any civilian casualties because of strong rules of engagement and a decentralized decision making process that empowered those closer to the fight, said Marine Corps Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, head of US Africa Command. Operation Odyssey Lightning wasn’t necessarily an air campaign, but instead was a close air support operation in an urban environment, Waldhauser told reporters in Washington, D.C., on Monday. The US had Special Operations Forces on the ground in operations centers working with troops from the Libyan Government of National Accord in the fight inside the city of Sirte. The campaign authority deemed Sirte an “active area of hostilities,” giving AFRICOM the ability to conduct fires within that geographical space. US forces needed to be sure they were targeting ISIS fighters and not needlessly destroying buildings. “We had to know what we were shooting at,” Waldhauser said. “It had to be somebody of ISIS and we had to be very, very certain that civilian casualties and the needless destruction of infrastructure was taken into consideration.” During the campaign, the US conducted more than 500 strikes with no reported civilian casualties, he said.