US Africa commander nominee: No ‘grand strategy’ to confront ISIS in Libya

The general tapped to lead U.S. Africa Command told Capitol Hill lawmakers Tuesday he did not know of any “overall grand strategy” to defeat ISIS in Libya.

Marine Lt. Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser made the comments under questioning from Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz.

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

The statement comes a week after CIA Director John Brennan delivered a stark warning to Congress about the growth of ISIS fighters around the world. He estimated the group has 5,000-8,000 fighters inside Libya.

During Tuesday’s Senate committee hearing, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., asked Waldhauser if those ISIS fighters could one day conduct attacks against Europe.

“Eventually they could, yes,” he replied.

Waldhauser is the nominee to be U.S. commander of Africa Command, but has not been confirmed yet.

He also said Tuesday he would not have the authority, as the top U.S. commander in Africa, to go after ISIS targets on his own inside Africa, while suggesting “it would be wise” to hit those targets.

The U.S. military has carried out two airstrikes inside Libya since late last year.

Two U.S. F-15E jet fighters flying out of Lakenheath, England, likely killed the ISIS leader in Libya, Abu Nabil, in mid-November. The Iraqi national was a longtime Al Qaeda operative and the senior ISIS leader in Libya, according to Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook.

In February, U.S. jets also bombed an ISIS training camp in Libya, killing a senior ISIS leader and an estimated 30 ISIS recruits fighters on the ground.

A senior U.S. official told Fox News at the time that the target of the airstrike was Noureddine Chouchane, a senior ISIS figure in Libya who was likely killed.

The airstrike on the ISIS base in Sabratha, Libya, was also carried out by F-15s flying from England. Local reports initially suggested more than 30 people had been killed. However, it was not immediately clear how many ISIS terrorists were among the dead.

Adding to the concern in the West is evidence that the number of ISIS fighters in Libya is increasing, according to America’s top spy.

CIA Director Brennan said last week the estimated 5,000-8,000 ISIS fighters on the ground are up from an estimated 2,000-5,000 in February.

The U.S. military has deployed a small number of U.S. special operations forces there in the past few months, according to Cook.

Waldhauser said no more troops are needed at this moment.

Asked afterward by Fox News if Defense Secretary Ash Carter agreed with Waldhauser’s assessment that there is no “overall grand strategy” in Libya, Cook also declined to answer, saying Libya remains “a very complicated situation.”