A rebel examined a military aircraft destroyed by NATO in Wadi Dufaan, Libya, in 2011. Credit Bryan Denton for The New York Times
  1. 1801-5
    First Barbary War

    To combat piracy against American shipping in the Mediterranean, the United States went to war against the Ottoman regencies along what was then called the Barbary Coast of North Africa. American naval ships blockaded and bombarded Tripoli, and a small force of Marines and mercenaries captured the fortified city of Derna.

  2. 1942-70
    World War II and the Cold War

    In the North African campaign of World War II, the British did most of the ground fighting in Libya while the American Army fought farther west. But once Axis forces had been driven from the continent, Libya became a major base for American long-range bombers and for the invasion of Italy.

    After the war, the United States kept a major air base in Libya for training and strategic missions. The base was closed in 1970, after the coup that brought Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi to power, under an agreement Washington reached with the previous government.

  3. 1981
    Dogfight Over the Mediterranean

    At a time of mounting tensions between Colonel Qaddafi and the West, American F-14 jets shot down two Libyan Su-22 fighters that intercepted them over the Gulf of Sidra, in an area Libya had unilaterally claimed as its territorial waters and airspace.

  4. March 1986
    Skirmish at Sea

    American naval vessels conducting maneuvers in the Gulf of Sidra are confronted by Libyan corvettes and patrol boats, and missiles are fired. The American forces destroy or damage several of the Libyan vessels.

  5. April 1986
    Bombing Qaddafi’s Compound

    American forces carried out airstrikes against targets in Tripoli in retaliation for a terrorist attack on a West Berlin nightclub frequented by American service members. One of the targets was Colonel Qaddafi’s personal residential compound on the grounds of the Bab al-Aziziya army barracks. Forewarned, Colonel Qaddafi escaped unharmed.

  6. 1989
    Dogfighting Again

    In a near repeat of the 1981 episode, American jets shoot down two Libyan MiG-23s over the same area in the Gulf of Sidra.

  7. 2011
    Libyan Civil War

    A NATO military coalition led by France, Britain and the United States intervened in the Libyan civil war with airstrikes and a naval blockade. The stated purpose was to protect civilians, under Security Council Resolution 1973, but the effect was to tip the balance in the fighting in favor of the anti-Qaddafi forces, who ultimately drove him from power and killed him as he fled.

  8. 2015-16
    Raids Against Terrorists

    American warplanes carry out a series of targeted strikes aimed at Islamic State leaders and Tunisian terrorist figures taking refuge in the anarchy of post-Qaddafi Libya.

    Among the targets are Seifallah bin Hussein, leader of an offshoot of Al Qaeda in Tunisia (reported killed in a strike on Ajdabiya in June); Abu Nabil, also known as Wissam Najm Abd Zayd al Zubaydi, an Iraqi who led the Islamic State’s arm in Libya (reported killed in a strike on Darnah in November); and most recently, Noureddine Chouchane, a senior Tunisian terrorist operative, who the Pentagon said was probably killed on Friday in a strike on an Islamic State camp outside Sabratha.