Libya - International Intervention
The region witnessed three widely reported and acknowledged international interventions in 2015. In February, Egypt conducted air strikes against ISIL in Darnah after the group executed 21 of its citizens. On 13 June, the United States launched an air strike against a farm near Ajdabiya, the suspected location of a United Nations-listed individual, Mokhtar Belmokhtar (QDi.136). On 13 November, the United States launched an air strike targeting an ISIL commander, Wisam al-Zubaydi (also known as Abu Nabil al-Anbari). In January 2016, several air strikes by unidentified aeroplanes targeted ISIL positions in Sirte and a convoy in Bin Jawwad.
Since the adoption of resolution 2095 (2013), transfers of non-lethal military materiel to the Libyan government are no longer subject to the arms embargo. In recent months, it has become clear that the UN Committee considers non-armed military armoured vehicles as non-lethal materiel. However, the UN Panel believes that all transfers of APCs should be under embargo as they significantly increase the military capability of armed groups. In addition, most types of APCs identified by the UN Panel can easily be mounted with weapons after delivery. The Panel is also concerned about diversions of this materiel to militias.
Materiel producers, brokers and transport companies working in the United Arab Emirates and in Libya alleged that the United Arab Emirates was overseeing the transfers of materiel to Libya, including Bayda, Tubruq and Zintan, with great scrutiny. Sudan continued to transfer materiel to Libya in violation of the arms embargo, some by road, but mainly by air. In August 2012, Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) were transferred from the UAE to the ‘Libyan Ministry of Interior’ without prior notification. The vehicles, including Cougar, Spartan and Cobra types, were produced by Streit Group. In 2013, the Sawaeq brigade procured new materiel including APCs, uniforms and rifles. Nimr APCs are produced in the UAE by Nimr Automotive (State-owned Tawazun group).
In September 2015, the media reported that arms and ammunition had been seized in Crete, Greece, aboard the Haddad 1 (IMO No. 74113921) en route to Misratah from Turkey. Conflict Armament Research also documented ammunition consistent with Chinese and Russian-produced materiel, manufactured after the imposition of the arms embargo, which had not been previously documented in Libya and for which no notification or exemption request had been submitted to the UN Committee. Chinese-produced ammunition in boxes consistent with Sudanese packaging was also documented in Sabha by Conflict Armament Research.
An Italian general would be in charge of overseeing security for the new government as it established itself in the capital, Tripoli. The December 2015 UN-backed Libya unity agreement could see UK troops deployed to the battle-scarred North African state to fight Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). The UK expected to be asked to send troops, with some suggestions up to 1,000 could be deployed as well as a small number of Special Forces.
Their main roles would be to train local forces to oppose IS, which has gained a foothold in Libya since the Western-led intervention in 2011, and to help in operations against people traffickers. “We have always been clear we would look to support a unity government if one were to be formed, and if one is formed we would obviously need to wait for any requests that they put to us before we would then make a decision,” a Downing Street spokesman told the Daily Mail newspaper on 17 December 2015. “We have always certainly been clear that if any troops were ever deployed on the back of a request from that government, that they certainly would not be in a combat role,” he added.
French President Francois Hollande ordered French elite armed forces and the General Directorate for External Security (DGSE) to take part in clandestine military operations in Libya. France is using its special forces and commandos to wage covert military operations against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIL/ISIS) in Libya, the French newspaper Le Monde reported on 24 February 2016.
“The last thing to do would be to intervene in Libya. We must avoid any overt military engagement, but act discreetly,” a senior military source told Le Monde. The French secret war in Libya involved occasional targeted strikes against IS leaders preceded by discreet ground operations.
The US and British armed forces are also said to be involved in the secret operation aimed at weakening the jihadist group in war-torn Libya. The French Defense Ministry refused to comment on the report but a source close to Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told Le Monde he had launched an inquiry of the “breaches of national defense secrecy” to reveal the source of the leak. If the sources are found and tried, they may face up to three years' imprisonment.
While secretive, the French operations are apparently nothing illegal under international law. Any operation under the international treaty for combatting terrorism is a legal operation. French President Hollande said the country was at war against IS after the jihadist group claimed responsibility for the November terror attacks in Paris that killed 130 people.
In January 2016 Defense Minister Le Drian said that the rise of IS in Libya posed a major risk to Europe. “Daesh (Arabic acronym for IS) is installing itself," Le Drian told French TV, the Local reports. “I have been very worried about Libya since September 2014. They are there, nearly 300km from the coast, and they are spreading,” he added.
The French Defense Ministry also confirmed that French air forces conducted reconnaissance flights over Libya and that France had set up a military base in northern Niger, near the border with Libya.
Western insistence on successful United Nations-sanctioned peace talks a the single path to form a united front against IS could be simultaneously wearing away at other potential solutions while giving IS the time and space to grow, according to Jason Pack, a researcher of Libyan history at Cambridge University.
“Continued Western attempts to force a square peg into a round hole threaten to destroy many of the new aspects of Libyan unity that seem to be emerging,” he wrote Feb 26, 2016 in Middle East Eye, an online news organization. “Paradoxically, these attempts are clearly undermining the initial geopolitical purpose of the unity government - to facilitate the conducting of joint actions against the Islamic State [IS] militant group.”
Western leaders say if they attempt to intervene in Libya without a unified government with which to ally, any military action is bound to fail. “Italy is a leading country on this issue but the priority is to form a government in Libya,” said Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in March 2016. “Before a mission all attempts must be made to form a government." Martin Kobler, head of the UN Support Mission in Libya, warned 02 March 2016 that if IS militants continue to exploit Libya's political and security vacuum, they could expand to neighboring countries. “It is very important to limit the expansion of the Islamic State because this adds to the already difficult situation; they are expanding to the East, to the West but also to the South,” Kobler told the U.N. Security Council, adding that the IS organization has bridgeheads in Niger and Chad. Should those IS militants team up with sympathizers in those neighboring countries, "it would be very difficult to redress.”
“Da'esh in Libya constitutes an urgent and growing threat to Libya, the region and beyond. However, the fight against violent extremism can only be sustainable if it is led by a national unity government that puts in place and prioritises a national agenda to address the country's most immediate challenges and works to meet the aspirations and expectations of the Libyan people,” stressed the UN envoy.
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