The United States has temporarily withdrawn some of its forces from Libya due to "security conditions on the ground," a top military official said Sunday as a Libyan commander's forces advanced toward the capital of Tripoli and clashed with rival militias. A small contingent of American troops has been in Libya in recent years, helping local forces combat Islamic State and al-Qaeda militants, as well as protecting diplomatic facilities, per the AP. "The security realities on the ground in Libya are growing increasingly complex and unpredictable," said Marine Corps Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, the head of US Africa Command. "Even with an adjustment of the force, we will continue to remain agile in support of existing US strategy." He didn't provide details on the number of US troops that have been withdrawn or how many remain in the country.
The self-styled Libyan National Army, led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, launched a surprise offensive against the capital last week, a move that could potentially drag the country back into civil war. Libya has been gripped by unrest since the 2011 uprising that overthrew and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. In recent years, the country has been governed by rival authorities in the east and in Tripoli, in the west, each backed by various armed groups. Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the government in Tripoli, accused Haftar of "betraying" him. Haftar is seeking to capture the capital and seize military control of the whole country before UN-sponsored talks due to start next week; those talks were designed to set a time frame for possible elections in the oil-rich country. The two sides reported at least 35 people, including civilians, had been killed since Thursday. (Read more Libya stories.)