The spokesperson for the Misratan-led al-Bunyan al-Marsus (BM) forces aligned with the GNA said this week that the area in Sirte controlled by ISIS fighters is ‘less than the size of a football pitch’. BM forces said they are delaying a final push into the remaining ISIS enclave in al-Jiza al-Bahriya in order to evacuate any civilians being used as human shields. They do not want to use airstrikes against ISIS positions if there is a risk of hitting civilians.
US media has reported that AFRICOM is now analysing intelligence on ISIS fighters who escaped Sirte before or during the offensive and has begun laying the groundwork for expanded air attacks to follow and kill them as part of a final push by the Obama administration. US commanders are concerned that these ISIS fighters may regroup outside Sirte and elsewhere to launch pinpoint counter attacks against the BM forces.
The election of Donald Trump as President-elect of the US has been received fairly positively by both pro-GNA and pro-Haftar factions in Libya. The Italian newspaper La Stampa reported that former CIA director James Woolsey said the new administration would be committed to eradicating ISIS, both in the Levant and in Libya. The pro-GNA factions hope Trump’s anti-jihadi stance will mean his administration continues to support the GNA as it is officially leading the fight against ISIS in Sirte. On the other hand, the perceived closeness of the new US administration to Egypt’s Sissi and Russia’s Putin, both seen by Haftar and his supporters as more reliable allies than other Western nations, has raised the hopes of the anti-GNA faction in Eastern Libya who believe that Haftar’s strong-man, anti-terrorist approach will give them the upper hand in new global political dynamics.