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Top U.S. general 'not aware' of strategy against Islamic State in Libya

By Andrew V. Pestano
Marine Lt. Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, seen to the right next to former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel during a 2013 flyover in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Tuesday said he was not aware of an "overall grand strategy" to combat the Islamic State in Libya. Waldhauser has been nominated to command U.S. forces in Africa. File photo by UPI/Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo/DOD | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/ac76e3723f2c506e6f3e92a353e8b98f/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Marine Lt. Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, seen to the right next to former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel during a 2013 flyover in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Tuesday said he was not aware of an "overall grand strategy" to combat the Islamic State in Libya. Waldhauser has been nominated to command U.S. forces in Africa. File photo by UPI/Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo/DOD | License Photo

WASHINGTON, June 22 (UPI) -- Marine Lt. Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, nominated to command U.S. forces in Africa, on Tuesday said he was not aware of an "overall grand strategy" to combat the Islamic State in Libya -- suggesting the need for more ground troops and airstrikes in the effort.

During Waldhauser's Senate Armed Services Committee nomination hearing in Washington, D.C., committee chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., asked Waldhauser if the United States had a strategy in Libya or if we are "just acting in an ad hoc fashion."

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"I am not aware of any overall grand strategy at this point," Waldhauser said.

During testimony, Waldhauser said "it would be wise" for him to have to authority to carry out airstrikes against the Islamic State in the north African country without requiring approval from the White House. He said it "does not" make sense that the United States does not carry out airstrikes against the militant Islamist organization's branch in Libya.

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The United States has carried out two airstrikes against the Islamic State in Libya since late last year. In November, Abu Nabil -- an Iraqi national and longtime al-Qaida operative who became the Islamic State's leader in Libya -- was killed. In February, U.S. bombers killed a senior IS leader and more than 30 IS recruits.

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Last week, CIA Director John Brennan told Congress the Islamic State has between 5,000 to 8,000 fighters in Libya. Waldhauser said those militants could "eventually" one day conduct attacks against Europe.

McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., thanked Waldhauser for his "candor" during his testimony.

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"I can't thank you -- I'm just, that's about as direct testimony as I've ever heard from this committee," Graham said.

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