Italy is the Key to Fighting ISIS in Libya
An article from Brookings, beginning with an editor’s note stressing the importance of better coordination between Washington and Rome, describes Italian participation in recent negotiations and deployment of special operations forces in Libya. The piece discusses discrepancies in timeline and support for both diplomatic and military efforts in Libya from both the United States and Italy. Concluding with the importance of increasing the participation of Rome in future efforts, suggestions for future anti-ISIS operations and political initiatives are presented.
While much has been made of U.S. plans, little is known about the role the Italians are playing and the assets they bring to the coalition. In January, Italy and the United States reached an agreement allowing American armed drones to fly from its Sigonella Naval and Air Station in Sicily, while over fifty Italian special operations forces were deployed in Libyatwo weeks ago. This is on top of the over forty Italian intelligence officers sent to Libya since July 2015, and the long-standing Italian presence on the ground, aimed at collecting human intelligence. More forces are expected in the weeks to come. The Italian contributions complement Washington’s unrivaled convening power to seek a diplomatic path toward a unity government. Additionally, the United States has superior overhead imagery capabilities and the ability to carry out two-thirds of all precision strikes needed to counter ISIS.
Within this context, two different clocks are ticking: a diplomatic one to establish a Libyan unity government, and a military one to counter ISIS. The two are out of sync. Rome is unwilling to assume a leading role in Libya until a unity government is in place. Washington will not wait indefinitely to step up operations against ISIS. At the same time, the Italians are acutely aware that an ISIS stronghold in Libya would present a fundamental threat to their security. Equally, the Americans are reticent to further stretch themselves politically and militarily and would welcome strong Italian leadership. The diplomatic and military clocks must be aligned for Rome and Washington to effectively work together.
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