The military solution in Libya and its positive attributes

Opinion Friday 26/February/2016 10:04 AM
By: Times News Service
The military solution in Libya and its positive attributes

Military action against the IS militants is now overtaking the flopping UN political effort to install its selected, new so called 'unity' Libyan government in Tripoli. The Government of National Accord (GNA). The internationally recognised legitimate Tobruk Parliament (HoR), and other Libyan elements, cannot agree on this external UN mandate though a dubious and questionable statement was waved around yesterday on HoR letterhead. In fact, Fayez al-Sarraj, the new GNA Prime Minister is seen nowhere near the military action, certainly he has no involvement in it, now being prosecuted by foreign powers with the LNA.
In the meantime, the military option is now in play to change the battlefield balance between the many sorted actors in the Libyan drama most notably IS. Yes, Libya is full of extremists and it is high time that all are dealt with in a strong and forceful manner.
With the inability of the UN brokered GNA government to come to power and provide an official declaration for an international intervention, there is now a low-level but potent military option being implemented by the West without that previously insisted invitation from the GNA.
This is a very positive development that should be welcomed because, frankly, it’s about time.
The military option, instead of the political option, is now front and centre, and is a critical and timely use of force. The bad guys –extremists of all stripes-- are on the move to expand their presence in Libya as the international political community continue to dither.
Our Western military commanders, rather than our politician and diplomats, seem to be clearer as to what needs to be done.
Yesterday, US Secretary of State John Kerry’s comments to Capitol Hill illustrates urgency. Kerry said “We have been working really hard for the last months, particularly, to bring together the government in Tripoli. We have a Prime Minister designate, we have a government now; we have a couple of outliers that are resisting that effort. If they cannot get themselves together, yes it will be a failed state.” Note Kerry’s use of “failed state”. That warning, given to the House Appropriations Committee on Foreign Operations, is a signal that more military strikes are on the way with America’s European partners as the Libyan extremists are on the move and the fictitious phantom GNA remains on paper and in the media not forgetting they are in exile in another country!
This military option appeared last week suddenly and forcefully. The US conducted airstrikes on an IS training camp near the Libyan city of Sabratha, west of Tripoli, killing dozens of IS fighters, and specifically a Tunisian national, Noureddine Chouchane, who was an important IS 'facilitator'.
Apparently, the evildoers were planning major attacks in Tunisia, Libya’s next door neighbour, a comparative beacon of democracy in the post Arab Spring era.
It is important to recall that IS was making itself seen in Sabratha where a back and forth battle between the extremists and local forces has been ongoing since late last year.
In the wake of the American Sabratha IS Camp airstrike, a daring raid a few days ago shows that the heathens are daring foreign powers to strike again. IS immediately beheaded 12 security officers and retreated.
Sabratha is one of the major hubs for African migrants to Europe and also a UNESCO world heritage site, home to one of the world's best-preserved Roman amphitheaters. The symbolism, akin to Palmyra in Syria, is plainly evident: Bring it on, they must be thinking, in their insane apocalyptic thinking.
Let’s pound them and destroy them with a resounding series of air strikes and special operations support.
Consequently, that “pounding” is what is taking shape now. Other countries—France, UK, and Italy-- are part of the growing military option in Libya. French special operations forces, apparently (but unconfirmed) with British and US teams, are operating out of Benina Air Base and have been helping Libyan LNA troops fight IS in Benghazi for two months against the terrorists of Ansar Al-Sharia. Today these forces are attempting to take all of Benghazi specifically Ganfudah, Al-Sabri and Souq Alhout. The French forces look like they are specifically working with General Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan troops to pinpoint IS militant locations, conduct training, and plan operations and carry them out. Many Libyans though they may respect Haftar feel the real military unsung hero of Benghazi's LNA is the Special Forces Commander, Col. Wanis Bukhamada.
The same model is being carried out of an air base in Misrata against the IS stronghold in Sirte.
Italy, in agreement with the United States, seems ready militarily but not so sure politically. American drones at Italy’s Sigonella air base are poised to protect Western military personnel deemed at risk during anti-IS operations in Libya and elsewhere in northern Africa. But political hesitation for drone use to be granted for offensive missions still exists. That may change soon.
Clearly, military successes --not dialogue-- is critical in defeating the evil Islamic extremists in Libya. Beyond IS and Ansar Al-Sharia; there is the former Libyan Islamic Fighters Group (LIFG), who were affiliated to Al-Qaeda, and even elements of the Muslim Brotherhood, who are all potentially on the Western target list as Libya goes through a major new period in its post-Qaddafi history. It looks like the entire so called "International community" notably the UN and EU, with obvious exceptions, suffer from some sort of disturbing psychological political denial, expressed mainly through their spokesman, Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) who appears to live in a political dreamland not seeing that military developments these past days have completely taken over his attempts for a peacefully negotiated settlement.
But there are wider implications for the war against IS with positive attributes. With the West opening up what is literally a second front against the extremist group to accompany the operations in the Levant, military action is the phrase of the day. It is notable that the Libyan military option sounds like what’s happened in Syria. Although the political equation is different between Libya and Syria, the religio-political terrain is fairly similar in both countries with multiple extremist groups that are either deadly enemies or seen as “moderate extremists” whatever that means.
The West has now crossed the rubicon, from diplomatic inaction to military action. That action will be brutal, messy, and may leave Libya more chaotic and disjointed than it already is, possibly breaking into at least two new countries, but if that is the price for crushing IS on the southern Mediterranean, it is a price Western powers, particularly the EU and what was Libya, may have to pay.