Saturday, January 23News For London

Will Libya be the new frontier in the war against ISIL?

February marks the fourth anniversary of the beginning of a bloody uprising against Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s 40-year rule. Although the UK, with US and NATO allies have spent billions of dollars helping Libyan militias overthrow, and kill Gaddafi, today the country is a failed state. Should the UK intervene to turn this around?

Reporter: Hussein Abdel Fattah

Sub Editor: Danae Dimitrakopoulos Diz

Fierce fighting between Islamist militias followed British and NATO intervention in 2011. By Il Fatto Quotidiano
Fierce fighting between Islamist militias followed British and NATO intervention in 2011. By Il Fatto Quotidiano/ Flickr.

The war that costed the UK £230-260 million back in 2011 ended with another ongoing four years of civil war, leading the oil-rich North Africa into civil war and chaos.

“Concerns are growing among the international community that terror groups will take advantage of this chaos to strengthen their presence in Libya” says Jason Pack, a Libya analyst and head of

“This could have a devastating and destabilising effect not only on the Sahel region (Central Africa) but also on Europe,” he adds.

Those concerns reached their peak recently when the groups loyal to Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant broadcasted a video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christian workers.

The incident prompted Egypt, Libya’s eastern neighbour, to carry out its first military operations abroad since the Gulf war in 1991, directing airstrikes at ISIL targets in its stronghold city of Derna.

Just days later, 47 people were killed in a series of explosions in the city of Qobba.

Egypt and other Arab countries called on the West in an emergency Security Council session to “complete their mission” – which started four years ago in Libya – according to Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el Sisi.

However, those calls where not received enthusiastically by Western diplomats in New York.

Photo by UK Ministry of Defence.
RAF fighters participated in Libya’s 2011 military campaign and now asked by Arab countries to return against ISIL there. Photo by UK Ministry of Defence Flickr/defenceimages

Arab countries withdrew a draft resolution forcing the United Nations to support the Libyan army, currently controlling just the eastern part of the country, against Islamic militias that are running major cities including the capital, Tripoli.

“The problem is, there isn’t a government in Libya that is effective and in control of its territory. There isn’t a Libyan military which the international community can effectively support,” British Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond says during a visit to Madrid.

The West wants the government in the eastern city of Tobruk to negotiate with Islamist-inspired “Libya Dawn movement” government that took over the capital, Tripoli, after fierce fighting last summer.

: Libya map, CIA world fact book
: Libya map, CIA world fact book

“The first condition has to be the creation of a government of national unity… then the international community needs to rally very quickly around that government of national unity and ensure that it has the means to deal with Islamist terrorism,” Hammond told Reuters news agency.

US State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, supports the same view, telling Reuters: “a political solution, one that is non-intervention, is the right path forward”.

Hala Ragab, a political science professor at Cairo’s American University, says that British intervention, along with other Western countries became “inevitable”.

Ragheb told Westminster World: “The West should address the Libyan crisis now, Britain and other European countries should continue what they started with NATO during 2011”.

Ragab also pointed out that any costs of the intervention would be less “than ISIL taking over Libya and spreading terrorism in Europe across the Mediterranean Sea”.

She says that “a new terrorism playfield in the backyard of Europe will definitely have consequences on… We saw what happened in Charlie Hebdo’s incident in January and other major cities like London and Madrid might be the next target for ISIL loyalists”.