Western — 9 May 2016

May 9, 2016 | International actors

This week, British and Italian leaders contemplated the possibility of providing military support to the Government of National Accord (GNA), but have maintained that the conditions for an international intervention are not yet favourable. Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said that talks on providing assistance to the GNA would take place in Vienna (not Rome) on 16 May. Regional foreign ministers will meet to discuss international efforts to bring stability to Libya.

On 4 May, Italian Foreign Minister Roberta Pinotti said, “Now is not the right time for external military intervention in Libya.” She reiterated the Italian position that the GNA must first secure local backing and then formally request external assistance. Pinotti said, “Maybe the only thing that Italy will do in Libya is protect our own embassy. Or it may be that we will send our military advisors or trainers to train armed forces. But this all depends on the kind of requests.” She declined to say how many troops Italy would be willing to commit to an intervention in Libya, but added that Italy, under certain circumstances, would also consider joining combat operations against ISIS.

British Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Tobias Ellwood said during a House of Commons debate on 2 May that, “There is planning for 1,000 troops or so but we are yet to receive the invitation, the request for any support. That support is likely to come, when it does, in the form of training and mentoring.” This marks the first official confirmation by the British government of military planning for support to Libya.

The British and Italian remarks, combined with comments by Fayez Al Serraj in a televised address on April 28 pledging that a nationwide Libyan force, unadulterated by foreign interference, would liberate the city from ISIS control, demonstrate that the GNA is exceedingly reticent to request foreign assistance. Furthermore, the European nations are even more reticent to provide it. From the Libyan side, this is rooted in the GNA’s need to demonstrate to the Libyan populace that it is more than a foreign puppet. As such, this evokes the National Transition Council’s extreme reticence to request capacity building programmes in the early days after the fall of Qadhafi, even when such programmes were direly needed.