Italy’s foreign minister said Tuesday that they are ready to “positively evaluate” any request for air base or airspace use in the U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Libya. Italian Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti states that airstrikes will be considered if they yield a “more rapid and effective end” to the campaign. Thus far, Italian airspace territory and military bases have not been necessary for the U.S. to carry out airstrikes against ISIS strongholds in Libya. However, Italian officials have addressed the necessity of stabilizing Libya, which they believe will help control the migrant crisis and provide tighter national security for all of Europe.
Paolo Gentiloni, Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, has stated on live television that use of Italian Naval Air Station Sigonella will be considered “if requested” and that the Italian parliament will be informed of any decisions that are made. Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, has stressed repeatedly in the past that Italy would support anti-ISIS action in Libya only if the U.N.-brokered “unity” government requested such raids.
The announcement came only one day after U.S. airstrikes on ISIS militants in their stronghold of Sirte, a Libyan coastal city, began. Gentiloni has welcomed American involvement. He stated that the militants are spread out throughout four of five compounds and that eradicating the threat would be very difficult. During the television broadcast he commented on American involvement stating: “I believe that it’s a very positive fact.”
Italian officials hope that stabilizing Libya will put an end to migrant smugglers taking advantage of the volatile area. Recently, migrant smugglers have exploited the conflict in Libya by using it as a distraction so they can successfully launch boats carrying hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers and other refugees from Africa and the Middle East toward Italian shores.
Earlier this year the Italian government allowed American forces to use the base to launch drones for defensive purposes. This decision marks the first time the government will allow the bases to be used for offensive purposes by the American government in the war against ISIS in Libya.