What’s to Be Done About the Rise of ISIS in Libya?
A excellent piece from PXW compares the positions and recommendations of myself, US Representative Adam Schiff, and Italian Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti. The article focuses on options for future action and dialogue concerning potential for future anti-ISIS airstrikes by Western actors in Libya. Representative Schiff is calling for swift military action in Libya, where Minister Pinotti would rather see Western involvement if and only if a sovereign and unified Libyan government requests assistance. Differing from both Representative Schiff and Minister Pinotti, I submit that continued airstrikes would only serve the purpose of further fracturing political alliances and structure within Libya that already lie in disarray. Instead, my recommendation would be for the West to support an anti-ISIS coalition of Libya militias. Without the involvement of the Libyan people, it is entirely possible that Libya will become even more unstable, leading to increased security risks and a deterioration of already austere conditions.
Pack is certain that ordinary Libyans “don’t support ISIS, ninety plus percent of them are against it.” The only way to leverage that dislike is for representatives of the interested countries to knit together an anti-ISIS coalition of militias, “Muslim troops on the ground from the local country saying ‘ISIS doesn’t represent us.’” This coalition will be a long-term project, and will involve controversial incentives, political promises, and a great deal of patience, but Pack argues that it will be much more effective than airstrikes and other military measures.
Representative Schiff also sees Libya as an especially critical issue because, as ISIS has come under increasing pressure in the Middle East, Libya has emerged as a safe haven for the group’s senior leadership. In remarks to reporters, Rep. Schiff made the case that “we ought to be working with our partners to remove the leadership of ISIS that has been sent from Iraq and Syria to organize. That is not a permanent solution, but it does have an impact on their operational capability.”
Pinotti hopes an intervention that successfully weakens ISIS in Libya and lessens countrywide instability would also bring some relief for the other great crisis engulfing Italy and all of Europe – the flood of refugees fleeing conflict in the Middle East. Although many are coming from Iraq and Syria, the principal battlefields, a huge number pass through Libya on the way to the EU, thanks to the country’s lawlessness and proximity to Greek and Italian islands. For the defense minister, the only way to stop the flow of refugees is stabilize Libya and stop it from “becoming a no-man’s land where Islamic terrorism can triumph.”
To read the full article, click here.