Army Gen David Rodriguez, head of US Africa Command, said that local Libya militias are battling to destroy an ISIS network in Sabratha.
The latest numbers for ISIS which doubles to last year in Libya make it the largest branch of eight that the terror group operates outside Iraq and Syria, according to U.S. defense officials.
The U.S. has conducted two airstrikes in Libya in recent months targeting so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh, IS) terrorist and leaders.
Rodriguez said that airstrikes are limited to militants that pose an ‘imminent’ threat to U.S. interests. He said it’s possible the U.S. could do more as the government there takes shape.
The U.S. and its allies are hoping that a U.N.-brokered unity government will be able to bring the warring factions together and end the chaos there, which has helped fuel the growth of the ISIS.
The U.S. and European allies would like the new government to eventually work with them against ISIS.
Last November, a U.S. airstrike killed top Islamic State leader Abu Nabil in Libya. He was a longtime al-Qaida operative and the senior Islamic State leader in Libya.
Rodriguez said, however, that it will be a challenge for ISIS to become as big a threat as it is in Iraq and Syria because of resistance from local Libyan fighters and the population, which is wary of outside groups.
He said the militias in Libya have fought ISIS militants in Benghazi and Derna with some success, and fought hard in Sabratha with more limited gains.
Efforts to battle the group in Sirte have not worked as well, he said. Their biggest problem, he said, is that often the militias fight among themselves.