Report criticises David Cameron over Libya intervention

 David Cameron addresses a crowd in Benghazi, Libya. Photograph: Esam Omran Al-Fetori/Reuters
David Cameron addresses a crowd in Benghazi, Libya. Photograph: Esam Omran Al-Fetori/Reuters

The 2011 campaign to overthrow the Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi has been described as “ill-conceived” and “founded on erroneous assumptions”.

A highly critical report, published by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, accuses the government at the time of having “an incomplete understanding of the country and the situation” and blames it for helping create the messy state Libya finds itself in today.

The intervention, in March 2011, was instigated by the French government led by Nicholas Sarkozy. David Cameron was quick to commit British forces to the campaign.

The committee said this was “reactive” as the situation in the eastern city of Benghazi deteriorated and fears of a massacre increased.

“We have seen no evidence the UK government carried out a proper analysis of the nature of the rebellion in Libya,” the report concluded.

“The international community’s inability to secure weapons abandoned by the Gaddafi regime fuelled instability in Libya and enabled increased terrorism across North and West Africa and the Middle East.”

It added: “The result was political and economic collapse, inter-militia and inter-tribal warfare, humanitarian and migrant crises, widespread human rights violations, the spread of Gaddafi regime weapons across the region and the growth of ISIL in North Africa.

“Through his decision making in the National Security Council, former Prime Minister David Cameron was ultimately responsible for the failure to develop a coherent Libya strategy.”

Commenting on the report, committee chairman Crispin Blunt said: “Other political options were available. Political engagement might have delivered civilian protection, regime change and reform at a lesser cost to the UK and Libya.

“The UK would have lost nothing by trying these instead of focusing exclusively on regime change by military means.

“Having led the intervention with France, we had a responsibility to support Libyan economic and political reconstruction.

“But our lack of understanding of the institutional capacity of the country stymied Libya’s progress in establishing security on the ground and absorbing financial and other resources from the international community.”

The political and security vacuum, created by the UK and France, has allowed Islamist groups to take root in the country and the coastline is now a hub for people smuggling. Thousands of migrants are crossing the Mediterranean from Libyan beaches.

The investigation concludes the UK has “a particular responsibility in relation to migrants and refugees” because of its role in the conflict.

In its opinion, the migrant crisis “has been exacerbated by the collapse of the Libyan state” and the UK should share the blame.

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