The international community continues to push ahead with plans to intervene decisively in Libya, including statements to that effect by the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff last week. Despite the obvious urgency for such international assistance to counter ISIS in Libya, the political disconnect between the UN and international missions with the Libyan context, means that the optics of a Western intervention to fight ISIS may be badly handled, undermining any operation before it gets off the ground.
There is already nationwide apprehension at the recent reports that foreign military advisors had arrived to Tubruq airbase last week to coordinate the intervention with Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA). These reports were roundly denied by the LNA. However, Tariq Al Jaroushi, member of the House of Representatives (HoR), confirmed the arrival of 11 foreign military advisors to Tubruq to discuss possible support strategies to the Government of National Accord (GNA), adding that any form of intervention is possible as long as it is done ‘with Libyan coordination’.
Local unease about a potential ‘boots on the ground’ scenario is intensifying inside Libya particularly in the Eastern region. Benghazi has witnessed citizens stockpiling essential goods, increased traffic jams and overall tension as a result. The latest accusations made by LNA spokesman Mohamed al-Hijazi against Haftar, Commander-in-Chief of the LNA, is also adding fuel to the fire by presenting Haftar as a puppet of western militaries. Hijazi has claimed that Haftar is taking orders from foreign officers and will accept a ‘green zone in Tripoli’ in exchange for the position of GNA Defense Minister.
An opinion piece from the editorial board of The New York Times, published on 26 January, advocated caution by US policymakers caution on opening a new front against ISIS in Libya. Specifically pointing out the dangers of acting without ‘meaningful debate in Congress about the merits and risks of a military campaign that is expected to include airstrikes and raids by elite American troops’. The piece warned of a deeply troubling progression of a war that could easily spread across the continent.