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Monday, May 23, 2016

US negotiating agreement with Libya that could send US troops to Libya

Marine General Joseph Dunford, chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, says the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) is negotiating an agreement that could see U.S. military advisers deployed there to help fight the Islamic State (IS).

There are already special forces from France, Jordan, the UK and the U.S. present in Libya. The U.S. is said to have "outposts" near Misrata and Benghazi helping out against the IS. Speaking to a handful of journalists after returning to the U.S. from Brussels, he said:
“There’s a lot of activity going on underneath the surface. We’re just not ready to deploy capabilities yet because there hasn’t been an agreement. And frankly, any day that could happen.”

General Dunford said the mission is likely to focus on training and equipping militias who are loyal to the GNA government. There is no agreement yet on who exactly will be involved and there are already divisions about how the military aid should be delivered:Britain would like to see the training of personnel take place in Libya itself, whereas Germany is adamant training should be conducted over the border in Tunisia.Dunford emphasized that a request was needed from the new government before any troops were sent. He said any mission to Libya was expected to be long term. So far the GNA has been asking for weapons and equipment rather than troops.
General David Rodriguez, who heads the U.S. Africa Command, said Washington is considering sending weapons to Libya to help in the fight against the Islamic State. He said that the U.S. would need to take its clues from the GNA in order to ensure that weapons went to militia loyal to it. He said:
“We’re really dependent on the Government of National Accord to figure out who is with them and who is moving over toward them. Those are some of the things you can really only understand by watching how the GNA operates and how the different militias operate, whether it’s the Misratas, the Zintans or anybody else.”
John Kerry and other diplomats said they were in favor of granting any GNA request for an exception to the UN embargo. This move will no doubt anger the rival House of Representatives (HoR) based in Tobruk and also General Khalifa Haftar, the commander-in-chief of the Libyan National Army (LNA) associated with the HoR. However, Haftar has been getting weapons and equipment from some Arab states, including the UAE, in spite of the embargo. Rodriguez said that "everybody" is waiting to see what the UN will decide on the request. The request must stipulate who will receive the weapons. Rodriguez said: “The support for the GNA and how they need it and how they want it, we’ll just have to see how that develops over time.”
The structure of any Libyan mission is uncertain. It was thought that the Italian government would take the lead. However, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, ruled out any large "invasion" of Libya and there are reports he was backing out from deploying troops to support a UN mission. General Dunford spoke to Italian defense chief, General Claudio Graziano about the issue, who said that he did not think Italy would back out. He said the Italian government was still planning the mission but also setting conditions for getting involved. This would include the GNA requesting the intervention and also specifying who should be trained. There should also be demonstrated international support that could include a UN Security Council mandate.
Sending troops to Libya is bound to convince even more Libyans that the GNA is basically a UN-imposed government meant primarily as a means to meeting international wishes such as the defeat of the Islamic State and control of immigrants from Libya to Europe. Providing the Libyans themselves with weapons and equipment to fight the Islamic State may cause less political backlash but it is still dangerous because militia groups may very well sell some of the weapons or alternatively they are captured by the Islamic State. Worse still, they could be used in a conflict between the forces of General Haftar and many militia supporting the GNA .Haftar regards them as terrorists and his enemies. The enmity is mutual.

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