Too little, and way too late. Five years after deposing Moammar Gaddafi and turning Libya into a failed state, the West has finally decided to do something about the chaos they created. As ISIS creates its own power center in Sirte, the US and the same powers that created the failed state on the Mediterranean will sponsor an easing of a UN arms embargo to boost the internationally recognized but largely impotent Tripoli government:
The United States and other world powers say they are ready to supply Libya’s internationally recognized government with weapons to counter the Islamic State and other militant groups gaining footholds in its lawless regions.
The world powers aim to push for exemptions to a U.N. arms embargo imposed on Libya to keep lethal arms away from Islamic extremists and rival militias vying for power. But in a communique obtained by The Associated Press, the U.S., four other permanent U.N. Security Council members and the more than 15 other nations participating at the talks say they are “ready to respond to the Libyan government’s requests for training and equipping” government forces.
“The Government of National Accord has voiced its intention to submit appropriate arms embargo exemption requests to the UN Libya Sanctions Committee to procure necessary lethal arms and materiel to counter UN-designated terrorist groups and to combat Da’esh throughout the country,” said the communique, using an alternate name for the Islamic State. “We will fully support these efforts while continuing to reinforce the UN arms embargo.”
“Government” makes the GNA sound a lot more significant than it is. The most significant achievement of the GNA has been to make it into the capitol without getting killed, and to still be alive now. Its writ arguably doesn’t even run throughout the whole of Tripoli, let alone in other parts of the failed state that used to be Libya but is now largely a territory run by warlords and terror networks. It’s Somalia on the Med, and the GNA is as relevant to it as Mogadishu has been to the rest of its country in the last three decades.
The US and its NATO allies have been conducting largely underreported military strikes on ISIS in the Sirte region from the air, but it hasn’t done much to dent their momentum. The refugee problem has continued despite efforts to block the routes from north Africa to Europe. Instead of coming to the obvious conclusion — terror networks have to be defeated by ground troops and holding ground — the West is going to opt for another remote-control option by arming a force that barely exists at the moment. The GNA forces that would “combat Da’esh throughout the country” bear some similarity to the Free Syrian Army units that the Obama administration decided to fund, also years after the time for action had arrived and passed — which is to say, they’re mainly a product of wish-casting.
As the Wall Street Journal notes, it’s more of a task force than a military capable of fighting anyone throughout its country — and it’s not the only force in the field, either:
Islamic State controls the Mediterranean port of Sirte and in recent weeks has gained territory in government-held areas.
Earlier this month, Mr. Serraj’s government announced the formation of a military task force to address the threat posed by Islamic State. But the task force isn’t backed by the rival government in the eastern-Libyan town of Tobruk, which is quarreling over the allocation of country’s oil and financial resources.
The U.S., U.K., France and Italy have said they would only consider easing the embargo and a possible military intervention against the three Islamic State affiliates in Libya if the unity government forms a centralized military force.
Great! Let’s send lots of weapons to the GNA. Just don’t be too surprised when they’re aimed back at the West, and likely sooner rather than later.