U.S. drones will conduct flights from Italy’s base in Sicily in a week, a local newspaper reported Wednesday. Italy began allowing combat American drones to fly out of the Sigonella air base in Sicily for defensive operations against the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, in Libya and North Africa after about a year’s persuasion.
Italy will "in a timely manner" authorize the use of drones to the U.S. for defensive actions, Sputnik News reported, citing Corriere della Sera newspaper. Italian Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti confirmed Tuesday that the U.S. will be using the base in the fight against ISIS.
American authorities are reportedly still trying to convince the Italian government to allow the drones for offensive actions such as the attack against a suspected military training camp near Sabratha, Libya, targeting a senior ISIS operative from Tunisia that killed dozens last week. Italy has been apprehensive about allowing the armed U.S. drones to carry offensive operations from its Sicilian base fearing domestic antiwar opposition, especially in cases where Italians could be blamed for civilian casualties, U.S. officials told the Wall Street Journal. Rome also stated that it wants any drone strikes to target only non-Libyans to avoid stirring up political tensions in the region, the officials said.
Libya reportedly has about 3,000 ISIS fighters and U.S. Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in January that military authorities were planning to “take decisive military action” against the Sunni militant group. The North African country has witnessed a chaotic civil war since the fall of Moammar Gadhafi five years ago. With two rival governments struggling to secure power of the country and its vast oil fields, militant groups and terrorist organizations such as ISIS have exploited the opportunity to flourish.