The Pentagon's Quiet Drone War In Libya

Bullet Points

Amid gradually escalating U.S. military involvement in countries like Yemen and Somalia, a new analysis suggests that the Department of Defense has conducted 550 drone strikes in Libya since 2011, a wave of airstrikes that eclipses those conducted in Yemen, Somalia, and even Pakistan.

  • The analysis — conducted by The Intercept and the Italian-language newspaper la Repubblica using a combination of open-source military data and expert interviews — observes that U.S. aircraft have been heavily in the fight against ISIS fighters in Libya. The Air Force even bragged that from August to December 2016, U.S."remotely-piloted aircraft" conducted "a significant percentage" of the 495 strikes (roughly 300, the report says) against targets in near Sirte, Libya, as part of Operation Odyssey Lightning — an op that earned personnel eligibility for a Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal.
  • According to data collected by the non-profit Bureau of Investigative Journalism, those approximately 300 RPA missions are far more than the 42 confirmed strikes conducted in Somalia, Yemen, and Pakistan — roughly seven times the number of drone strikes in just one country and a third the time.
  • It's worth noting that while this uptick in Libya airstrikes was conducted toward the end of the Obama administration, it has likely continued under Trump. While Intercept/la Repubblica analysis found the Trump administration likely only carried out some 18 airstrikes since "last fall," U.S. Africa Command failed to publically acknowledge at least half of them in line with "new Trump administration policies limiting disclosures of attacks [that] have made already opaque operations even more secretive and difficult to track."

One little historical note in the Intercept/la Repubblica story that I found fascinating: While I knew that Libya has enjoyed its fair share of U.S. military interventions in recent years, I did not know that the first modern air strike was actually conducted in Libya back in 1911. From BBC News:

During fighting in November 1911 between Italy and forces loyal to the Turkish, Ottoman Empire, Lieutenant Giulio Gavotti wrote in a letter to his father: "Today I have decided to try to throw bombs from the airplane.

"It is the first time that we will try this and if I succeed, I will be really pleased to be the first person to do it."

And soon afterward Lieutenant Gavotti did indeed hang out of his flimsy aircraft and fling a bomb at troops in a desert oasis below.

Forget Rome: All roads lead to Libya, apparently.


It didn't take long for a central theme to emerge at the funeral of U.S. Marine Pfc. Joseph Livermore, an event attended by hundreds of area residents Friday at Union Cemetery in Bakersfield.

It's a theme that stems from a widespread local belief that the men and women who have served in the nation's armed forces are held in particularly high esteem here in the southern valley.

"In Bakersfield and Kern County, we celebrate our veterans like no place else on Earth," Bakersfield Chief of Police Lyle Martin told the gathering of mourners.

Read More Show Less

An Air Force Special Tactics combat controller that "delivered thousands of pounds of munition" during a close-range 2007 firefight in Afghanistan was awarded the Silver Star on Friday.

Read More Show Less

ROCKFORD — Delta Force sniper Sgt. First Class James P. McMahon's face was so badly battered and cut, "he looked like he was wearing a fright mask" as he stood atop a downed Black Hawk helicopter and pulled free the body of a fellow soldier from the wreckage.

That's the first description of McMahon in the book by journalist Mark Bowden called "Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War." It is a detailed account of the horrific Battle of the Black Sea fought in the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia, in October 1993. It claimed the lives of 18 elite American soldiers.

Read More Show Less

The July arrests of 16 Camp Pendleton Marines in front of their 800-person battalion was unlawful and a violation of their rights, a Marine Corps judge ruled Friday.

Read More Show Less

Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher will retire as a chief petty officer now that President Donald Trump has restored his rank.

"Before the prosecution of Special Warfare Operator First Class Edward Gallagher, he had been selected for promotion to Senior Chief, awarded a Bronze Star with a "V" for valor, and assigned to an important position in the Navy as an instructor," a White House statement said.

"Though ultimately acquitted on all of the most serious charges, he was stripped of these honors as he awaited his trial and its outcome. Given his service to our Nation, a promotion back to the rank and pay grade of Chief Petty Officer is justified."

The announcement that Gallagher is once again an E-7 effectively nullifies the Navy's entire effort to prosecute Gallagher for allegedly committing war crimes. It is also the culmination of Trump's support for the SEAL throughout the legal process.

On July 2, military jurors found Gallagher not guilty of premeditated murder and attempted murder for allegedly stabbing a wounded ISIS fighter to death and opening fire at an old man and a young girl on separate occasions during his 2017 deployment to Iraq.

Read More Show Less