Can Libya survive yet more U.S. assistance?

Arab News

Daesh is losing ground and income from sales of oil in both Syria and Iraq. Foreign fighters have had their wages cut by half. Under pressure from US-led coalition, Russian and Syrian regime bombs and renewed resistance from local populations, the group is eying the area around the oil-rich Libyan city of Sirte as its new “capital.”

Daesh terrorists have succeeded in taking the towns of Bin Jawad and As-Sidr, gateways to the export of oil as well as a key refinery, with relative ease.

The Obama administration, which celebrated the demise of Muammar Qaddafi, and contributed US airpower, military advisers and CIA operatives to ensure his downfall, is said to be so alarmed at the potential of Libya mirroring Syria that, according to a Pentagon spokesman, a range of military options including air strikes are being studied.

The British government is similarly concerned rightly fearing a massive influx of Daesh fighters on the Mediterranean would pose a direct threat to Europe and government officials have hinted Libya could be next on its target list.

US and British Special Forces have been operating within Libya for some time in conjunction with the Libyan Army — or so they claim. But a lawmaker from the internationally-recognized Parliament in Tobruk claims that 20 US soldiers dropped into the country with their vehicles were disarmed by Libyan forces and told to quit Libyan soil. The Pentagon denies this account saying the soldiers were ordered out by a local militia.

Good intentions aside, questions remain as to whether those western countries which helped break a functioning state whose people lived in security and relative prosperity are capable of fixing it and would the various political players, armed militias and tribes that are unable to agree on a common cause welcome their efforts? It’s been proved that airstrikes alone even with the complicity of governments cannot cure the disease that is Daesh; they only setback its ambitions while taking a toll on civilian lives.

Let’s face it. Obama’s regional policies have until now has been an abject failure on just about every score. Why should Libya be any different?

Conflicts rage on in Iraq. Syrians die or starve or flee daily while US-sponsored peace talks struggle to get off the ground. His stances toward post-revolution Egypt have resulted in a loss of American influence over the most-populated Arab nation; his wooing of Iran has rearranged the regional deckchairs in the ayatollahs favor. His promise to dedicate his presidency to the emergence of a Palestinian state during his reach out to the Muslim World made in Cairo University is long forgotten. He now boasts “I am the closest thing to a Jew that ever sat in the Oval Office”.

He has no golden Midas touch. Everything he touches in MENA region turns to dust, so if Libyans view the prospect of US airstrikes with a certain amount of skepticism, who can blame them!
Not only are the US and Europe worried about Daesh dominating a proportion of Libya, so is Egypt, where one of its branches operates within the northern Sinai Peninsula, Algeria that is being threatened and infiltrated and, of course, Tunisia where foreign tourists and security personnel have come under attack.

Egypt has shown willingness to engage proactively against Daesh in Libya but when the Egyptian Air Force answered the group’s beheading of Copts with air strikes, Cairo received only criticism from the White House.

One of the most effective forces within Libya is the Libyan National Army commanded by Gen. Khalifa Haftar who exerts influence over the government in Tobruk and has an excellent relationship with Egyptian authorities.

If there is to be an initiative to erase Daesh from Libya it should be Arab driven and will require ground forces; a step too far for Obama and his European counterparts.

An Algerian-Egyptian-Tunisian military alliance would be preferable to the usual suspects the US, UK and France repeating the same old mistakes in the hope this time there will be a different outcome. As long as the same failed formula is used, there rarely is!

The views expressed in Op-Ed pieces are those of the author and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Libyan Express.
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