US will act against ISIS in Libya if needed: White House

Firefighters try to put out the fire in an oil tank in the port of Es Sider in Libya in January 2016 after ISIS attacks.
Firefighters try to put out the fire in an oil tank in the port of Es Sider in Libya in January 2016 after ISIS attacks.PHOTO: REUTERS

CATONSVILLE, Maryland (REUTERS) - US President Barack Obama will continue to be updated on the risks of the spread of Islamic State to Libya, and the United States will take action in the North African country to counter that threat if necessary, the White House said on Wednesday.

"If there is a need for the United States to take unilateral action to protect the American people, the President won't hesitate to do that," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.

Earnest declined to comment on whether Obama had made any decisions on the possibility of sending ground troops into Libya, but said the President has "demonstrated a willingness to take decisive action," even in Libya.

Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) forces have attacked Libya's oil infrastructure and established a foothold in the city of Sirte, exploiting a power vacuum in the country where two rival governments have been battling for supremacy.

Libya's two warring administrations are expected to form a unity government.

Earnest said the United States would support the unity government on a range of national security measures, but it was too early to say what form that assistance would take.

"The more that we can bolster the capacity of the national unity government to govern that country, the better off we will be," he said.