On February 23, the Italian government gave the United States approval to use an airbase in eastern Sicily for drone missions into Libya. The Italian government specified that U.S. drone missions flying out of the airbase would have to be approved on a case-by-case basis and only as a “last resort.”
Although the U.S. has pressed Italy to approve all drone missions into Libya, Italy has made clear that it intends to only allow defensive missions to fly out of its airbase. This would entail any imminent threat against U.S. personnel or assets by the Libyan branch of the Islamic State or other rebel groups. Allowing offensive strikes by U.S. drones is domestically unpopular in Italy, and the government has given no indication that it plans to change its stance.
This approval comes as the U.S. has increased its presence in Libya in order to counter the growing branch of the self-styled Islamic State (IS) in the country. Only last week, the U.S. conducted airstrikes against an Islamic State training camp, killing over 49 people. One IS member involved in attacks on Tunisian tourists last year was known to have visited the training camp. The strike also killed two Serbian embassy staff, who were being held captive in the camp.