The Pentagon on Wednesday pushed back against a published report suggesting that U.S. special operations forces were directly assisting fighters in Libya who are battling the Islamic State in the coastal town of Sirte.
The report in the Washington Post said the elite American troops, along with some British special forces, were "providing direct, on-the-ground support," for the first time "coordinating American airstrikes and providing intelligence information" in an effort to help the forces aligned with the Libyan government free the city from the grip of the Islamic State.
Without mentioning the Post story specifically, Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Gordon Trowbridge said in a statement that media reports suggesting that U.S. forces are engaged in "direct action" on the ground in Sirte are not true.
Trowbridge acknowledged that a small number of U.S. forces continue to go in and out of Libya to exchange information with local forces in established joint operations centers, but insisted there were far from the front.
"They are not on the front lines, nor are they on the ground in Sirte," Trowbridge said. "The Libyan government has established joint operations rooms, away from the forward line, to facilitate coordination among Counter-ISIL forces."
The Post report said the U.S. and British advisers were operating out of a joint operations center on the city's outskirts and that their role was limited to supporting forces loyal to the country's fragile unity government.
Trowbridge's denial essentially confirmed the Post report, while disputing how close the U.S. special operations forces were to the front lines.