U.S. SecDef Ash Carter made the rounds in Europe last week drumming up support for a special ops invasion of Libya. The New York Times editorializes this morning in "Opening a New Front Against ISIS in Libya" that
The Pentagon is ramping up intelligence-gathering in Libya as the Obama administration draws up plans to open a third front in the war against the Islamic State. This significant escalation is being planned without a meaningful debate in Congress about the merits and risks of a military campaign that is expected to include airstrikes and raids by elite American troops.
That is deeply troubling. A new military intervention in Libya would represent a significant progression of a war that could easily spread to other countries on the continent. It is being planned as the American military burrows more deeply into battlegrounds in Syria and Iraq, where American ground troops are being asked to play an increasingly hands-on role in the fight.
Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters on Friday that military officials were “looking to take decisive military action” against the Islamic State, or ISIS, in Libya, where Western officials estimate the terrorist group has roughly 3,000 fighters.
Administration officials say the campaign in Libya could begin in a matter of weeks. They anticipate it would be conducted with the help of a handful of European allies, including Britain, France and Italy. The planning is unfolding amid political chaos in Libya, which continues to reel from the aftermath of the 2011 civil war that ended with the killing of the country’s longtime dictator, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. In recent months the United Nations has struggled to persuade two groups of Libyan officials who claim to be the country’s rightful leaders to band together. On Monday, the parliament that is recognized by the international community rejected a unity government proposal brokered by the United Nations.As Islamic State suffers defeat in Iraq and Syria and the final sieges of Mosul and Raqqa are organized, Libya has become the preferred destination of caliphate leadership. To prevent Libya from becoming an even larger safe haven for Islamic State, the United States, along with select European allies, plans on striking the IS stronghold of Surt. That at least is the story that has been promoted since last week.
The problem, as Kareem Fahim reports in "Libyan Lawmakers Reject U.N.-Backed Unity Government," is that the UN-brokered Libyan unity government, the entity which would invite the U.S.-led military coalition to rid Surt of its rising caliphate, has been rejected by one of the two competing parliaments that rule the country, the Tobruk faction led by Saudi-backed General Khalifa Hifter. The stated reason? The unity government's 32-member cabinet was too large:
The United States and several European countries have said they are preparing for possible military attacks against the Islamic State in Libya — an action that would require the agreement and cooperation of a unified Libyan government.
The country is split between the government in Tobruk and a rival government based in Tripoli, the capital. In December, Libyan officials representing the country’s different factions signed an agreement to form a government of national unity. Last week, as part of the agreement, a presidency council, formed under the United Nations agreement and based in Tunis, proposed the cabinet. Only the Tobruk-based Parliament was required to approve it.
The governing council now has 10 days to propose a government “that should be smaller — reduced to 10 or 12 portfolios,” Mr. Buera said.
In a statement after the cabinet was rejected, the United Nations envoy to Libya, Martin Kobler, urged the Parliament and the presidency council “to take the necessary decisions as soon as possible.”
The Parliament had approved the unity agreement in principle, but it rejected an article that would allow the government to dismiss military leaders, Mr. Buera said. Most prominent among them is Gen. Khalifa Hifter, a divisive figure who has promised to purge Libya of Islamists and leads forces that are closely allied with the eastern government.
The race to consolidate the government comes as the Islamic State has intensified its attacks on Libyan oil facilities to the east of the extremist group’s stronghold in the central city of Surt. Mustafa Sanalla, the head of Libya’s state oil company, said in a statement on Sunday that the group had done “a tremendous amount of damage to the oil industry in the last two weeks.”
“Their objective is to prevent the new government from stabilizing the economy, and unless they are stopped, they might succeed in their aims,” Mr. Sanalla said.We've seen all this before with the Syrian opposition. The West tries to cobble together a government in a hotel conference room and it always falls apart. There is no reason to believe that Libya will be any different. This doesn't mean that Hifter's demand for a 12-member cabinet won't be granted. After all, the goal here is not a functioning, representative government for Libya but rather some sort of lasting U.S. military footprint there.
Libya is not only a gateway to Europe but to the Sahara as well. Africa is the where the next chapter of the Great Game is being written, and Libya is the apple of the Pentagon's eye. This help explains why Hillary was so gleeful when she talked of Gaddafi's murder. What a prize for the American Imperium.
As in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, there will be no happy ending in Libya. Peace is not something the U.S. is capable of manufacturing, only war and misery.