WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama summoned top military and national security officials to the Pentagon on Thursday to assess what’s working and what’s not in the fight against the Islamic State group. High on the agenda: the nascent U.S. air campaign against IS targets in Libya.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden made the short trip across the Potomac River to sit down with Defense Secretary Ash Carter, CIA Director John Brennan and other Cabinet secretaries. The president grinned and chatted with his aides but made no comments as journalists were allowed in briefly for the start of their meeting.
After the National Security Council session, Obama planned to take questions during a news conference at the Pentagon.
The session comes as the U.S. is bombing targets in and around the Libyan city of Sirte, a notable expansion of the U.S.-led coalition’s military mission against IS. At the urging of the Pentagon, Obama authorized the strikes that started this week and include precision strikes against IS tanks, rocket launchers and fighting positions.
Italy, just across the Mediterranean Sea from Libya, has said it’s prepared to allow the U.S. to use its bases or airspace to launch strikes against IS in Libya. The extremist group’s spread to Libya and elsewhere in North Africa has deeply alarmed European countries already worried about the specter of terrorism in European cities.
Obama typically convenes the National Security Council at the White House, but over the past year he has occasionally held them at other agencies like the State Department and the CIA. The goal of the road show at the Pentagon is to illustrate the multifaceted U.S. approach to defeating IS.
Mired in chaos following the ouster of strongman Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, Libya became a target for IS extremists hoping to build a safe haven outside its initial territory in Iraq and Syria. Though the number of IS fighters in Libya has dwindled, the U.S. is hoping to help Libya’s fledgling U.N.-backed unity government finish the job.
Obama also plans to use the meeting at the Pentagon to praise recent gains by the U.S. and its partners against IS in Syria and Iraq. With significant U.S. help, Iraq’s government is preparing a major offensive to reclaim the key northern city of Mosul, controlled by IS since June 2014.