Libya, war and terrorism hidden by the power plays

(In collaboration with Termometro Politico)

General David M. Rodriguez, commander of the US Africa Command, announced that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has set up training camps in eastern Libya. An absolutely novelty that, as declared by the general, the United States intends to “monitor and observe with attention”, without excluding the possibility of possible air raids on those camps.

“Concern over the deteriorating situation in Libya”

The announcement follows the meeting, held at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, which was attended by the 60 countries in the anti-ISIL coalition. The foreign ministers of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States, with the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, and the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Jan Eliasson, have signed a joint statement about the current status in Libya. Expressing “grave concern over the deteriorating situation in Libya”, in the statement they urge the main factions of the Libyan scenario to participate in new talks in order to form a national unity government. The United Nations Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, Bernardino León Gross, announced that new talks will take place on December 9th.

Omar al-Hasi is open to dialogue

Despite previous negative criticism of the United Nations, the government of Tripoli – led by Omar al-Hasi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood – gave its willingness to engage in dialogue. The government was established by the pro-Islamic militias of the Fajr Libya coalition, which also restored the General National Congress (GNC). It was the parliamentary assembly elected in 2012 and replaced in June by the House of Representatives, in Tobruk. The latter is recognized by the international community as the legitimate parliament of Libya: the government of Tobruk is led by Abdullah al-Thani who, in the fight against jihadist groups, can count on the support of the Libyan army and the forces of General Khalifa Haftar, who launched in May the “Operation Dignity” to fend off the Ansar al-Sharia militias.

The institutional chaos

Despite the international recognition, the government of Tobruk was delegitimized by the Supreme Court of Libya, consequently allowing the “resurrected” GNC to take on the parliamentary functions. In the institutional chaos, blend international actors, such as Egypt and the United Arab Emirates: they support the government of al-Thani, while Qatar supports the government established in Tripoli. However, in the meantime, the civilian population is the main victim of this power struggle, because fights are continuing in the country.

The fights continue

The air raids carried out by the forces of Tobruk in western Libya, against the various Islamic groups of the Fajr Libya militias, are causing many civilian victims. While the government of al-Hasi does not hesitate to condemn these attacks as “terrorist acts”, the western Libyan reprisal is immediate: the military sources of Tobruk, in fact, have accused the jihadist group Ansar al-Sharia to attack eastern civilians.

The consequences for Italy

The consequences of this civil war, meanwhile, are falling back on Europe, and in particular on Italy: “Since January, 162,000 migrants had arrived, compared with 40,000 last year, and it is important to note that 90% crossed Libya on their way here”, said Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy, Paolo Gentiloni, at the Ministerial Conference of the Khartoum Process (“EU-Horn of Africa Migration Route Initiative” – HoAMRI), promoted by the Italian Presidency of the Council of the European Union last week in Rome. During a recent interview with the Italian newspaper “La Repubblica”, the Minister said: “We must not repeat the mistake of putting boots on the ground before having a political solution to support. But certainly a peacekeeping operation in Libya, rigorously under UN sponsorship, would see Italy on the frontlines”. Furthermore, also the Prime Minister of Italy, Matteo Renzi, has talked about the Libyan situation, declaring that Libya could become a “hub of international terrorism”. The alarm raised by the Italian government has found support from the international community, as evidenced by the aforementioned statement signed in Brussels. In addition to condemn the recent violence and guerrilla registered in the country, it concludes with the call for an immediate end of hostilities. Moreover, it states that if some key actors of the Libyan context do not participate in the dialogue, will be taken into consideration “the use of additional measures to protect the unity, stability and prosperity of Libya and to counter the expansion of terror threats in Libya and in the region”.


Giacomo Morabito

Director and Founder of Mediterranean Affairs

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