Is Libya the Next Syria/Iraq?

We all know about the brutal civil war that is taking place in Syria currently along with the dragged out operation in Iraq, but the North-African country of Libya has quietly developed into a similar conflict. Syria and Iraq get all the coverage since the Islamic State’s strongholds are within the two Middle East countries and it is widely known the United States government has been conducting hundreds of airstrikes in these countries to eliminate ISIS. However, Libya has become entangled in just as much political and military chaos as the Middle Eastern countries mentioned above. This all can be attributed to the Arab Spring that took place in 2011 where many countries including Yemen, Egypt, and Syria started to protest and in some cases overthrow their oppressive dictators. Libya would follow with this trend. Protestors, upset with the government, protested against the political elites resulting in security forces shooting at the protestors. This set in motion the fall of oppressive dictator, Muammar Qaddafi. Backed by NATO airstrikes, rebel groups overthrew Qadaffi eventually leading to his death. The government structure was sent into chaos after that because the central authority failed to monopolize the use of force; which is a requirement to obtain sovereignty. Regional militias would gain more influence after Qadaffi’s death just like the ones that attacked a US diplomatic facility in Benghazi (Source).

The chaos in this country subsequently lead to the Benghazi attack that killed US Ambassador, Chris Stevens. Hilary Clinton, then Secretary of State, is at the center of the attack because of her lack of action to send military personnel into Libya after the attack. Many of America’s citizens are wondering why she would not address the situation immediately after it happened and that is definitely up for debate. Some have said the United States government did not have enough time and adequate forces ready to respond to the attack, but a recent development refutes that statement. A new Clinton email suggests the US did in fact have forces ready to respond to the attack. Part of the email reads: “After consulting with General Dempsey, General Ham and the Joint Staff, we have identified the forces that could move to Benghazi. They are spinning up as we speak”(Source). To this day, the Benghazi attack signifies the failed intervention in Libya and it is not getting any better.

It has been five years since Libyan protestors rose up to overthrow the country’s dictator, Muammar Qaddafi. Since then, rival governments have been fighting for control over the country; not to mention, the Islamic State has emerged as a powerful entity within the country. ISIS has expanded their influence within the country, taking control of the city of Sirte and attacking oil ports (Source). Moreover, ISIS militants reportedly entered the Libyan city of Sabratha and beheaded 12 security officers in the area (Source). After briefly taking over the city’ security headquarters, the militants were forced to retreat, but the damage was already done. Although there is a bright side: Zintan and Sabratha, two cities on opposite sides of the conflict, may be inching towards cooperating with each other in the fight against ISIS.

The United States, in contrast, as part of an ongoing airstrike campaign against ISIS, has started to bomb Libya where Islamic State militants supposedly operate. Western officials have called for more airstrikes and special operation units in Libya as well as an Italian-backed plan for training and advising other groups. Recently, the United States received the go-ahead to launch airstrikes from Italy into Libya. Particularly interesting is President Obama has added another 200 million dollars to the budget to support increasing drone strikes from Italy (Source). It appears the United States is ready to address the crisis in Libya the same way they have addressed the crises in Iraq and Syria: drone strikes. Will this lead to a different result than in the aforementioned Middle Eastern countries? Precedent says no, but only time will tell.

Contributed by R.A.


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