Only a few months ago, U.S. President told Fox News in an interview that America’s military intervention in Libya was his “worst mistake.”
While such a public acknowledgement of a failure is a rare gesture from a U.S. President, Obama is now committing the same mistake.
The purpose of U.S intervention in 2011 is far from clear even today and the fresh offensive, which began from August 1 and is supposed to last for 30 days, is explicitly aimed at targeting Islamic State (IS).
Obama administration’s “worst mistake” was its failure in “liberating” Libya from the “tyranny” of Gaddafi that led Libyans to face the “tyranny” of the world’s biggest terror group, IS.
Defending his decision for the fresh campaign in Libya, Obama said in the White House last Tuesday, “At the request of [the Libyan] government, after they had already made significant progress against IS and essentially pushed IS into a very confined area in and around Sirte, it is in America’s national security interests in our fight against IS to make sure they’re able to finish the job.”
While Obama seems to have been moved by the (hypothetical) success of the Libyan government, the irony is that Tripoli does not have a legitimate and recognized government. The General National Congress (GNC), which is generically called Libya’s government, came into existence as a result of the December 2015 Morocco agreement.
However, since then, it has not been ratified by the Parliament. Therefore, the GNC cannot be regarded as the legitimate representative of Libya. Washington and other Western players are ignoring this fact and supporting GNC whose leaders, according to Libyan MPs, are terrorists and extremists torturing and murdering civilians and organizing training camps for militants preparing for the battle in Syria.
The legality of the latest “counter-terrorist operation” by the U.S. in Libya is, hence, questionable. Like in the case of the armed intervention of 2011, the current U.S. offensive too has not been launched at the request of any legitimate government in Libya or with a mandate from the UN Security Council.
If, as Obama said, the Libyans have been successful in “cornering” IS, the U.S. campaign would have a negative effect on the Libyan forces’ campaign because of the absence of consent and co-ordination.
The Libyans, as it stands, are determined to fight the terror groups. The head of parliament Aguila Saleh Issa declared on June 18 a total mobilization across Libya to protect the country from enemies within and without.
Opposition to the fresh intervention by the U.S. is growing in Libyan parliament. A number of parliamentary panels like the security and defense committee have labelled the US assault on Sirte as “politicization of the fight against terrorism.” According to them, the bombing raid there was only to give Democrats an upper hand in the US elections.
U.S. intervention in Libya at the request of an unrecognized government and its failure to seek Libyan parliament’s opinion are reinforcing political bifurcation of the African country.
The Parliament, located in the city of Tobruk, is backed by the troops of the Libyan national army headed by Lieutenant-General Khalifa Haftar.
Libyan capital Tripoli is occupied by the GNC which is supported by a coalition of armed groups called the “Shield of Libya.”
The U.S. policy of ignoring Libya’s elected Parliament and supporting an institution that is yet to acquire a firm legal existence may create roadblocks in the African country’s trek towards peace and democracy.
In effect, the current U.S. offensive is aimed at boosting the GNC and paving the way for Libya to pass from the tyranny of Gaddafi and IS to the tyranny of GNC.
While numerous Libyan militant groups can be considered terrorists, Western politicians are happy to arm them, despite the UN embargo, so long as they serve their interests.
There are rumors British, French, Italian and even American special forces are assisting local militants in the operation aimed at capturing the town of Sirte.
Western powers certainly have their military presence in Libya. On July 20, French Ministry of Defense said their troops in Libyan territory are helping “certain groups” in the fight against terror.
But extremism cannot be tackled by forming proxy groups.
For the U.S., however, this is the best option. It allows Washington to maintain a certain degree of instability in the region to justify its own military domination of the whole continent to checkmate China’s economic advances.
It also enables the U.S. to “intervene” whenever it feels a certain region or nation is “in trouble” and demands “global attention.”
Salman Rafi Sheikh is a freelance journalist and research analyst of international relations and Pakistan affairs. His area of interest is South and West Asian politics, the foreign policies of major powers, and Pakistani politics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org