Why did the US decide to provide air support for Libyan offensive against ISIS in Sirte?
On August 1st, the Obama administration announced that Operation Odyssey Lightning had begun, a series of air strikes against the remnants of the Islamic State, or Daesh, surrounded in a confined area of their former stronghold Sirte.
|The strikes were coordinated with a ground assault by the Al-Bunyan Al-Marsous (Solid Structure or BAM) forces loyal to the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA). The U.S. has carried out targeted air strikes in the past and also has a few special forces working with BAM, but also in Benghazi with the rival government and forces led by General Khalifa Haftar — who has so far rejected the GNA and refused to join its armed forces under the command of the GNA Presidential Council (PC).|
The U.S. stands with the international community in supporting the GNA as it strives to restore stability and security to Libya. These actions and those we have taken previously will help deny ISIL a safe haven in Libya from which it could attack the United States and our allies.
The country’s top religious body has totally refused the call for foreign intervention. The Fatwa House said in a statement on Tuesday that the request of the Presidential Council aims to steal the efforts of the revolutionaries and their sacrifices in Sirte front lines.The BAM forces themselves approved the attacks but wished they had begun sooner. The BAM forces have been virtually stalled for some time and have faced heavy losses from the determined resistance of the few remaining IS fighters. They face snipers, IED's and suicide attacks. It is not surprising that they should welcome help from whatever quarters.“This request is an insult to the large numbers of martyrs in Sirte and an attempt to save Haftar in Benghazi on the pretext of fighting terrorism,” the statement reads, calling on all concerned parties to bear their responsibilities and reject this intervention.
The current air campaign in Libya exhibits all the hallmarks of Obama’s way of war: the careful and calibrated use of force, the reliance on air power rather than ground troops, the coordination with local allies — in this case, the GNA, which requested the anti-ISIS strikes.While the policy may be successful, in the short term there is no clear plan for an endgame. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said about US policy in the Middle East that the US was basically playing out its tactics day by day. U.S. Marine Lt. General Thomas Waldhauser, when asked about US policy in Libya said: “I am not aware of any overall grand strategy at this point.”
France, Britain, Germany, Spain, and Italy have all backed the GNA as the recognized government in Libya. But Western governments seem to be hedging their bets. In July, three French special operations troops died in a helicopter accident near Benghazi, after working on an intelligence mission alongside House of Representatives forces. The international community must send a consistent message about which Libyan groups are considered legitimate.The members of the international community do not have all the same aims. Russia, Egypt, the UAE and likely France support Haftar and the HoR while all also express support for the GNA. Even the UK and US have special forces in Benghazi supporting the HoR and Haftar.
"I do not know the answer to this question. When Sarraj said that he had asked the Americans for help, all others stood in opposition to him. They could not understand how it was at all possible to ask the Americans to bomb Libya at the time when the country is disintegrated and the government is illegitimate. This is total chaos. There is no centralized power, and the reconciliation process hardly brings any results."This is simply wrong on several accounts. It is the type of answer you would expect from a Haftar supporter. All others did not stand in opposition to Serraj when he asked the US for help. The GNA Presidency Council support him and the State Council as well. So do the BAM forces as well as many others. The GNA is called illegitimate but is recognized by the UN and most countries as the sole legitimate government of Libya.