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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Many countries waiting in line for new Libyan government to request troops to fight the Islamic State

Since the UN-sponsored Libya Political Agreement(LPA) was signed recently, the international community is looking forward to dealing with the new Government of National Accord(GNA)

Many countries are waiting to send troops to deal with what is portrayed in the media as a huge and growing threat from the Islamic State or Daesh even though the group lost one of its main Libyan bases in Derna last June and has not regained it but has been driven into the nearby mountains. As long ago as early last August, there were plans being made to intervene long before the LPA was signed. The UN and the international community thought that the GNA would be agreed to long before now and the plans were to get permission from the newly minted and legitimate GNA to send their troops.
The plans had to be put on hold, as the former UN Special Envoy to Libya Bernardino Leon was unable to get either the internationally-recognized government the House of Representatives(HoR) located in Tobruk in the east, or the rival General National Congress(GNC)j located in the west in Tripoli to approve the LPA. When his successor, Martin Kobler, took over on November 17th he refused to change the LPA that Leon had presented to the rival parliaments or to change the names he had suggested for the GNA. Kobler was no more able to get even one of the rival parliaments to sign than Leon. Kobler decided to call together a select group including members of both the HoR and GNC governments that supported the dialogue. He had the group sign the LPA. He then got the support of the UN Security Council and later a huge ministerial meeting in Rome to endorse his actions giving a veneer of legitimacy to his underhanded and unprecedented stratagem to bypass both parliaments. Theoretically the GNA and LPA has to receive a vote of confidence by the HoR before it can begin its term but it remains to be seen if there is the least bit of attention paid to that requirement of the LPA. However, already countries such as the UK have announced their intention of sending hundreds of troops to Libya since the LPA was signed. One of the main reasons for pushing through the LPA even though neither parliament signed on was to create one Libyan government that would grant permission for foreign intervention.
The US did not wait for GNA permission. They sent 20 commandos into the eastern area where General Khalifa Haftar is commander of the Libyan National Army. Their arrival and subsequent departure when a militia group at the base would not let them leave was reported on the Facebook page of the Libyan Air Force complete with photos.US authorities must be livid with anger but accounts of what happened are muted. Already Haftar is sending international authorities a clear message that he is in charge and that proper clearance through him and his close buddy who is chief of the air force is a must or the whole secret operations of the US will be not only revealed but stopped.
As well as the UK, other countries are preparing to intervene in Libya: Italy is drawing up plans to lead a military coalition, including troops and special forces from Britain, France and Germany, which would seek to stabilize Libya but have no combat role, two Italian officials with knowledge of the matter said.
The officials said that the force would focus on training and logistical support for the Libyan-armed military and police. The Libyan-armed military at present are under the control of Khalifa Haftar who has consistently rejected the LPA and GNA. although of late he has been mum on the issue and recently met with Martin Kobler. Neither the Libyan National Army nor the rival Libya Dawn militia support the GNA. Libya Dawn and its allies control Tripoli. The GNA wants to locate in Tripoli and Kobler has asked Tripoli authorities to guarantee security. Kobler has plenty of chutzpah. He has just done a run around the GNC and is now asking them to please allow a competing government that they do not approve come to Tripoli and set up a government to rule the area the GNC controls. He is asking for a fight between some Misrata militia and Libya Dawn and allies. Perhaps, he is intending to call in help from Haftar allies and his Operation Dignity. The LPA allows for the possibility of the GNA meeting in any city. Presumably they could even operate out of Tunis if the security situation makes it impossible to meet in Libya. Note that the LPA was signed in Skhirat Morocco not in Libya due to security concerns.
Frederic Wehrey, a Libya specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said of the GNA: “The danger is that it becomes yet another third body that has to meet outside the capital or even worse outside the country." There is always the possibility that the GNA could operate as a government in exile as with the Hadi government in Yemen. The international community could get permission to bomb the Islamic State and could also train and protect armed groups loyal to the GNA who would also fight IS. Eventually, supporters of the GNA might be strong enough for the government to return to Libya. This would be analogous to what is happening with the Saudi-led operations in Yemen.


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