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Relative calm reported north of Sirte, Libya

[File photo]

A period of cautious relative calm was been reported in Libya’s northern city of Sirte yesterday following fierce battles between forces loyal to the government of National Accord and Daesh.

Sources close to Al-Bunyan Al-Marsoos, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Anadolu Agency: “Calm continues in all the fighting axes in the residential neighbourhoods, north of Sirte.”

A spokesman for Misrata Central Hospital, Akram Kulaiwan told the news agency that 17 soldiers were killed in yesterday’s fighting, while 86 others were wounded.

He did not have information on losses among Daesh fighters.

On Wednesday, pro- government forces backed by the United States said they had seized the Islamic State’s last stronghold in the country, in the seaside city of Sirte.

(Source / 12.08.2016)

US launches air strikes on IS in Libya

Rather than a strike against ‘Islamic State’, this was Obama striking a blow against his political enemies and their mercenary armies.


Today, whenever we read a report about an event such as this we have to read between the lines and use our wider knowledge to figure out what exactly is going on behind the scenes to have caused this event to happen.

We very strongly suspect that this air strike was against CIA/Israeli assets that are part of the group that, from 2001 onwards ran Gaddaffi’s intelligence services and with Dick Cheney acting as de facto ‘Governor General’ of Libya, set up prisons and a rendition transit facility.

Again, we remind the reader that the US government, military and intelligence agencies cannot be viewed as a monolithic entity, rather they are divided into factions and this air strike is part of the ongoing struggle between those factions. In this case, we have Obama’s White House faction striking at their political enemies in the Pentagon-Neocon-CIA-Israel faction.

The timing of this strike is significant, coming at a time when the US is in the midst of a very nasty election where Hilary Clinton has been continually lambasted for her supposed role in the fall of Gaddaffi in 2011. Obama is entering the final months of his presidency so he is able to make some moves against his political enemies now that he couldn’t risk earlier, hence this air strike.

US launches air strikes on IS in Libya

The United States has carried out air strikes on positions of so-called Islamic State (IS) in Libya, following a request by the UN-backed government there, the Pentagon says.

The strikes targeted positions in the port city of Sirte, an IS stronghold.

Libyan PM Fayez Sarraj, in a televised address, said the strikes caused “heavy losses”.

Western powers have become increasingly concerned at IS’s growing presence in Libya.

The air strikes are the first such US military intervention co-ordinated with the Libyan unity government.

There have been two previous US attacks on IS targets in Libya – last February and in November.

The Pentagon said Monday’s strikes, authorised by President Barack Obama, were in support of government forces currently fighting IS militants.

“These actions and those we have taken previously will help deny ISIL a safe haven in Libya from which it could attack the United States and our allies,” the Pentagon statement continued, using another term for IS.

Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said the strikes hit “precision targets”, including a tank, in response to a request from the Libyan administration in the past few days.

It now appears the US has formally started a sustained air campaign to degrade the IS group’s capabilities in Sirte. The jihadists have been losing ground there in recent months, but the armed groups fighting it have been witnessing an increasingly high death toll.

An advanced air campaign could speed up the removal of IS militants from their biggest stronghold in the country. The Pentagon has carefully attributed its latest move to the unity government’s request to help its forces.

But these anti-IS forces are only loosely allied to the government in Tripoli. The wider military and militia forces across Libya are still embroiled in local rivalry. In the aftermath of campaigns of this kind, the US, and other countries involved in Libya, will probably be left with more questions than answers over the stability of the country and the local forces they backed.

The government began an offensive against IS fighters in Sirte in May and said two weeks ago that it had made its largest gains to date.

Western officials say the number of IS militants in Libya, previously estimated at 6,000, is declining in the face of concerted government action and pressure from other militia.

Mr Cook said fewer than 1,000, possibly several hundred, remained in Sirte, and no US forces were on the ground in connection with “this operation”.

Libya has become increasingly divided since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, with competing governments and rival militias seeking to gain territory and influence.

The chaos had left Libya vulnerable to an influx of IS fighters, many from Syria.

The United States has voiced strong backing for the unity government, or Government of National Accord, which began operating from the capital, Tripoli, in April.
US Secretary of State John Kerry declared in May that it was the “only way to generate the cohesion necessary to defeat Daesh [IS]”.

(Source / 01.08.2016)

Fleeing Libya’s Sirte: ‘Islamic State arrived, and the end of our lives began’

More than 90,000 people have fled Sirte and the clutches of IS. Many left with nothing other than the stories of desperate conditions inside the city

Thousands of young children are among the 90,000 forced to flee Sirte

MISRATA, Libya – At the back of a carpet shop in Tripoli Street, one of the main roads through Misrata, citizens collect essential items for refugees. There are shoes, clothes, mattresses, books and games for children and even food baskets for young couples who cannot afford a wedding lunch.

The donations will be shared among the tens of thousands of civilians who have fled Sirte and the clutches of the Islamic State group. The UN says more than 90,000 have left – two thirds of the city’s population – including 35,000 in the two months since the start of a Libyan offensive to take back the city. Among them are 3,000 children under the age of three.

Misrata, Beni Walid and Tarhouna have taken in the vast majority, many of whom arrived with nothing other than the clothes on their backs and stories of their break for freedom from desperate conditions inside the city.

Fatima is in line at the carpet shop with her 13-year-old daughter Aisha, one of her five children. Until a few months ago they lived in Sirte.

“My husband is blind and has a heart problem,” Fatima told Middle East Eye. “When we were in Sirte we lived with his family, sharing the food and expenses, and as long as I could work my salary was enough to guarantee children what they needed.”

“Then Islamic State arrived, and the end of our lives began. They took possession of all aspects of our lives.”

Holding a picture of her eldest son, Ali, 15, Fatima said: “They wanted to recruit our children. We knew there were spies everywhere who controlled the boys who went to their lessons. Young people were forced to listen to their sermons.”

The situation became desperate for Fatima as food and medicine began to run out.

“At that point my husband and I began to think of escape. We were afraid of being stopped at a checkpoint and kidnapped, as we knew it was happening to many others.

“But one night we took courage and we fled. I did not want my son to be corrupted by their ideology, but at the same time I was afraid they would kill him. For this, we fled.”

‘I tried to resist till the end’

Another refugee, Ibrahim, met with MEE in a hotel in Misrata. He asked to remain anonymous for fear IS would kill his brother, whom they abducted and forced to fight.

“They took him from our home, at night, after having ransacked everything. The same thing happened to many other young people.

“They forced them to train, we know that around Sirte there are several training camps and we saw weapons arriving all the time during these months.

“I tried to resist till the end. I did not want to leave Sirte without my brother, but when the bombing started I convinced my mother to flee,” he said.

Ibrahim recounted the punishing conditions inside Sirte after IS arrived in 2014, and the reign of terror exacted on its population.

“They controlled everything: the port, the air base, the radio station, they stopped all communication with the outside, they closed banks. They taxed my shop, my family was starving.

“They forced citizens to attend public executions. Many people were beheaded and hanged on a scaffold on the roundabout in Zafran.

“I was forced to attend public executions seven times… they passed in the street with loudspeakers threatening retaliation for those who did not attend.

“They killed innocent people, accusing them of witchcraft, blasphemy, or spying.

“I can never forget the faces of my fellow citizens killed. I will never forget the pain of their families and the fear of all of us.”

‘The soldiers were mainly foreigners. Judges were Nigerian’

The IS fighters were mostly foreign, he said.

“The largest group was Tunisian, and there were soldiers from Yemen, Chad, Nigeria. Their judges were mostly Nigerians. The leaders were not Libyans – they were mostly Syrians and Iraqis.

“They were carrying lots of currencies; there were Libyan dinars but also euro and so many dollars.

“There was a prison in a school, in the Ribat area, and another at the central bank, we were all terrified of their Islamic police, terrified of ending up on their lists.

“A friend of mine was sentenced to be publicly flogged because the Islamic police claimed to have seen him smoking in public.”

He said he hated fleeing, but there was no alternative.

“And I pray for the civilians left in Sirte. Because I fear that they are used as human shields.”

“Many people ask me why I had not run away before. I answer: because Sirte is my home, because I wanted my brother back, because I was hoping that someone might save us.”

Forces loyal to the Libyan unity government, based in Tripoli, have been inching towards Sirte for two months. Reports from the front lines suggest British and American forces are directing the Libyan campaign, but progress is slow.

And the many thousands who have fled death must find a new way to live until their city is liberated.

“Now I’m here in Misrata and I pray every morning to find a job to feed my mother,” Ibrahim said.

Fatima is also struggling. “We feel deeply alone,” she said. “I have three jobs to pay the rent of the house we found, but if I pay the rent little or nothing remains to buy food.

“I had to ask Aisha to start working with me. I do not want her to do menial work too. I clean houses and ask her just to cook.”

Libyan forces launched a counter-offensive around Sirte two months ago 
(Source / 30.07.2016)

Freedom For Saif al-Islam Gaddafi! Freedom For Libya!

In a convoluted political picture, one must see beyond simply “good guys” and “bad guys,” and instead understand that while there are indeed good guys and bad guys, some of the good guys are sometimes bad, while some of the bad guys are sometimes good.

Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, speaks to the media at a press conference in a hotel in Tripoli, Libya.

Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, speaks to the media at a press conference in a hotel in Tripoli, Libya

The news that Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of the assassinated leader of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Muammar Gaddafi, has been released from captivity is one of the most significant developments in Libya in some time. For while the Western corporate media would like people to believe that the Gaddafi name is dead and buried, the fact remains that Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, and the surviving members of the Gaddafi family, are seen as heroes by many in Libya. Moreover, Saif’s release has the potential to transform the political situation in the country.

Although details are few and far between, what we do know is that according to his lawyer at the International Criminal Court (ICC), Saif Gaddafi “was given his liberty on April 12, 2016.” Indeed official documents (which remain unverified) seem to support the assertion that Saif has, in fact, been released. Considering the statements from his attorneys that Saif is “well and safe and in Libya,” the political ramifications of this development should not be underestimated. Not only is Saif Gaddafi the second eldest and most prominent of Col. Gaddafi’s sons, he is also the one seen as the inheritor of his father’s legacy of independent peaceful development and the maintenance of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.

This last point is of critical importance as his release is a clear signal to many Libyans that the resistance to the NATO-imposed chaos and war is alive and well. And while there have been isolated upsurges of pro-Gaddafi sentiments at various times in the last five years, they mostly remained underground. Perhaps it might soon be time for the resistance to once again become united as it moves to drive out the terrorists and opportunists who have torn the jewel of Africa apart these last five years.

Libya: Chaos Reigns Thanks to NATO

In order to answer the question of what Saif Gaddafi’s return to political life would mean for Libya, one has to first understand the nature of the Libyan state (if one can even call it that) today. Libya has become a fractured nation made up of at least two governments – one aligned with Al Qaeda in Tripoli, the other moderate, non-Islamist government based in Tobruk – with the vast majority of the tribes having at least some ties with the Tobruk government, and its sometimes backers in Egypt. Indeed, it is the tribes who in many ways dominate political life as much of Libyan society has fallen back on tribal affiliations and loyalties in the wake of the destruction of Gaddafi’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya government.

With disunity having been created by the NATO war on Libya, and the introduction of longtime CIA asset General Khalifa Haftar into a political equation already exhaustingly complex with myriad factions and shifting loyalties, it becomes rather difficult to know exactly where each group and alliance stands. As if to complicate the matter further, Saif has been held since 2011 by the militias centered in the city of Zintan; the Zintanis were no friends of Gaddafi, but have steadfastly refused to cooperate with the Al Qaeda-Muslim Brotherhood allied factions dominating Tripoli as part of the so-called “Libya Dawn” coalition.

Of course, one cannot forget about Abdelhakim Belhadj and the fighters of his Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) which played a key role in the NATO-backed overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi. Belhadj, the darling of western intelligence and political elites like John McCain and Lindsey Graham (who posed for pictures with the infamous Al Qaeda terrorist), had been accused of being involved in training ISIS operatives in Eastern Libya, though sources in Libya have denied the claim, instead maintaining that Belhadj remains holed up in the Tripoli airport, commanding his fighters in alliance with his longtime Al Qaeda comrades.

All of this is to say that the political map of Libya is like broken glass, fractured into dozens of pieces strewn about by the destruction of the once peaceful and prosperous nation. But in the midst of all the chaos, there have been moments of hope, moments when it seemed a pushback from the people of Libya might soon come.

One key element of the political situation in Libya that is often ignored is the role of Egypt’s President Sisi. While Sisi has a dubious human rights record of his own, in the Libyan context his government has seeminglyprovided air support to the Tobruk government and its allied tribal groups fighting against ISIS/Daesh terrorists, and potentially also against Al Qaeda-affiliated groups. Sources inside Libya have conveyed that, contrary to rumors on social media, Egyptian forces have been closely collaborating with some key Libyan factions, including representatives of the tribes whose loyalty remains with the Gaddafis.

In this convoluted political picture, one must see beyond simply “good guys” and “bad guys,” and instead understand that while there are indeed good guys and bad guys, some of the good guys are sometimes bad, while some of the bad guys are sometimes good. Got it? Good.

The Leader Libya Needs, the Leader It Deserves

It is against this dizzying political backdrop that one must examine the significance of a potential return for Saif al-Islam Gaddafi. Saif remains a hero to many Libyans who see in him the inheritor of the independent spirit of his father, a man whose education and erudition, and most importantly wartime experience, make him a natural leader.

It should be remembered that Saif was the main advocate of the rapprochement between Libya and the West in the early 2000s, spearheading the campaign for Libya’s disarmament of its nuclear and long-range ballistic missiles program. However, by 2011 and the US-NATO illegal war on Libya, Saif had changed his tune, regretting terribly his having taken western leaders at their word. In a now infamous interview with RTconducted in the midst of the NATO war, Saif stated:

“Many countries, Iran and North Korea are among them, told us it was our mistake to give up, to have stopped developing long-range missiles and to become friendly with the West. Our example means one should never trust the West and should always be on alert – for them it is fine to change their mind overnight and start bombing Libya…One of our biggest mistakes was that we delayed buying new weapons, especially from Russia, and delayed building a strong army. We thought Europeans were our friends; our mistake was to be tolerant with our enemies.”

One could sense the penitence in Saif’s voice, a man who acknowledged his own responsibility in weakening his country and opening it to foreign invasion. But Saif’s contrition, almost a plea for forgiveness from his people, was also seen by many Libyans as the mark of his true character, a man who forthrightly accepted responsibility while simultaneously standing defiant against the most powerful military alliance in the world, and its terrorist proxies overrunning his country. Indeed, for many, this was the moment – along with hisappearance at the Rixos Hotel in Tripoli before a crowd of stunned reporters and Libyans – when Saif ceased to be simply the favored son, and instead became a bona fide leader.

And today, nearly five years later, Saif remains the chosen son of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya – a man who has endured five years of confinement at the hands of his one-time enemies, who has remained defiant of the US and of its puppet institutions such as the International Criminal Court. His is the man who for so many represents the promise of a better future by symbolizing a better past.

And this is why factions inside Libya, and their backers in the US and Europe, are terrified of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi; they understand perfectly what he represents. They know that Saif commands the loyalty and respect of the majority of Libyans, far more than any other single faction. They know that Saif is backed by the most influential tribes in the country, as well as what remains of the Green Resistance which has emerged at key moments in the last few years, including the brief takeover of a critical air base in the southern city of Sabha in January 2014. They know that Saif is the only individual leader left in Libya who can unite the disparate political formations into a single force prepared to finally defeat the jihadist elements backed by the US-NATO.

But the fear of Saif runs even deeper than just the theoretical leadership that he represents. Rather, the powers that be fear the political force he already is. When Saif’s death sentence was handed down by a kangaroo court in Tripoli, supporters of Gaddafi and the Jamhiriya took to the streets in Benghazi, Sirte, Bani Walid, and a number of other cities across the country, despite ISIS and Al Qaeda terrorists in control of much of those cities. At the risk of their own lives, these Libyans carried portraits of the assassinated Col. Gaddafi and Saif al-Islam, chanting their names and calling for a restoration of the socialist government. Consider the devotion necessary for followers to risk life and limb in a show of political support. Now imagine what would happen with Saif free.

Sources in Libya, and among those who have fled to neighboring countries, as well as Europe, have noted that elements of the former Gaddafi government have been working closely with the Sisi government in Egypt. While it is difficult to confirm independently, such a move is entirely plausible considering the common jihadi enemy both face in Libya which shares a long, porous border with Egypt. Assuming that the collaboration is true, it presents yet another reason why the US and its proxies, to say nothing of the terror groups inside Libya, would greatly fear Saif’s freedom. With the backing of an assertive Egypt, the all-important tribal councils, and elements of the disparate factions on the ground, Saif would instantly become the single most powerful man in Libya.

And for those in the West, it is incumbent on everyone to vigorously and publicly defend Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, and to redouble efforts to back him. Saif represents a chance for Libya to be rebuilt, for the country to be pulled from the morass of chaos manufactured by the US and its NATO partners. Saif is the hope of the Libyan people who have suffered unspeakable horrors these last five years. Even those who have no love lost for Gaddafi understand the importance of reconstituting a single, united Libya under a single, united government. Only Saif al-Islam Gaddafi can do that now. And that’s why freedom for Saif might one day mean freedom for Libya.

(Source / 16.07.2016)

Libya: Sarraj Council Struggles with Security

Forces aligned with Libya’s new unity government advance along a road in Sirte. / Reuters

Forces aligned with Libya’s new unity government advance along a road in Sirte

Cairo – Amid the security scampering in the capital of Libya, Tripoli, security forces fighting ISIS in Sirte announced they have killed about 100 terrorists in retaliation of the attack that killed 36 of its fighters.

Following the armed clashes that killed 49 people, Fayiz Sarraj’s Presidential Council of Government of National Accord called on citizens of al-Qarah Boli to be wise.

Presidential Council of Sarraj government discussed the military operations in Sirte with Minister of Defense Al-Mahdi al-Barghathi, Head of Security Committee General Abdul-Rahman al-Taweel, and other officials.

In a statement issued following the meeting, the attendees said that the forces are advancing on several axes and that civilians are the reason for not liberating Sirte earlier.

The statement also stressed the importance of uniting all military rooms and forces in one unified command room, in addition to forming a committee in charge of following up the cases of the wounded.

Operation Solid Structure Media Bureau announced in a statement that forces were able to advance on several axes in preparation to clear ISIS from the area.

Media Official of Misratah Hospital said that the final count revealed 36 members of the government forces were killed and 100 injured during the clashes in Sirte.

Clashes at al-Zaafaran and al-Gharbeyyeh axes are ongoing, a military source at Sirte Liberation room said. These are the fiercest clashes taking place between ISIS and forces of the Government of National Accord.

Spokesperson of Media Center of Libyan Forces in Misrata Abdulallah bin Raes Ali announced that ISIS is aggressively defending the areas remaining under its control. He added that the terrorist organization fears defeat after losing several areas.

Last month, factions formed of Misrata fighters launched an attack to take Sirte back from ISIS. Factions are slowly advancing now even after seizing the strategic “700” neighborhood.

According to medical count of Mistratah Central Hospital, over 170 fighters were killed and 500 injured of the government forces during their fight against ISIS in Sirte.

(Source / 23.06.2016)

IS tries to break siege in Libya’s Sirte

Forces loyal to Libya's UN-backed unity government launched an operation to drive Islamic State fighters out of Sirte on May 12.  By Mahmud Turkia (AFP/File)

Forces loyal to Libya’s UN-backed unity government launched an operation to drive Islamic State fighters out of Sirte on May 12

Tripoli (AFP) – The Islamic State group tried Sunday to break a siege on their last holdouts in Sirte but were pushed back by fighters allied to Libya’s unity government, a spokesman said.

IS fighters have been pinned down in parts of Sirte since forces allied to the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) launched an operation to dislodge them from the coastal city last month.

On Sunday pro-GNA forces said they clashed with the jihadists who had launched a bid to break away from positions west of Sirte using “medium-sized” weapons.

“Our forces confronted them and forced them to retreat,” spokesman Reda Issa told AFP.

“Two of our men were killed and five wounded” in the clashes around the Al-Ghrebat sector of Sirte, he said.

Jihadist groups took root in Libya in late 2014, taking advantage of the chaos and power struggles that followed the NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.

The pro-GNA forces launched an operation to drive IS out of Sirte on May 12.

Last week they imposed a siege around the Mediterranean city and advanced into parts of it but the operation has slowed down with jihadists holed up in residential areas.

“The pro-government forces are advancing cautiously because IS fighters are barricaded inside homes and we are trying to avoid using heavy artillery to spare civilians who could also be inside,” said Issa.

IS has counter-attacked during the past week, including with suicide bombings that have killed at least nine pro-GNA forces.

Issa said the pro-GNA forces were now focused on trying to “bolster their positions on the outskirts of Sirte to reinforce the siege and provoke IS fighters to come out of hiding”.

At least 166 pro-GNA forces have been killed and more than 500 have been wounded since the assault was launched last month, according to an AFP count based on reports from medical officials.

No casualty figures are available for the jihadists in Sirte, 450 kilometres (280 miles) east of the capital.

US officials estimate IS has 5,000 fighters in Libya, most of them in Sirte, where the remaining civilian population numbers around 30,000.

(Source / 19.06.2016)

Is the West about to repeat its mistakes in Libya?

Libyan Prime Minister-designate Fayez al-Sarraj (L-R), US Secretary of State John Kerry and Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni attend a news conference in Vienna, Austria, May 16, 2016

Is the international community about to help Libya fix itself and gain stability or will it repeat the same errors of judgment and commit more mistakes than it did five years ago? Those mistakes helped make Libya become more chaotic, more ungovernable and more destabilizing to its immediate and regional neighbors.

On June 7, Britain circulated a draft resolution at the United Nations to authorize European naval forces to intercept ships suspected of smuggling arms to the Islamic State (IS) in Libya. This appears to be counter to what was agreed to in a May 16 Vienna meeting in which major powers promised to help Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) arm itself to confront IS. However, the latest draft resolution aims to tighten the noose around IS while calling for the easing of the arms embargo against the GNA.

After the May ministerial meeting, the United States, Russia, Italy, Germany and Libya’s neighboring countries, along with at least three regional organizations including the Arab League, European Union and the United Nations, agreed to lend further support to Libya’s fragile government and to translate this political support into on-the-ground material assistance.

However, careful reading of the meeting’s adopted final communique reveals that the international community is about to blunder again in the North African country, probably repeating some of its worst mistakes committed five years ago. In February 2011, leading world powers, including France and the United Kingdom, rushed to help what they called theLibyan revolution to topple Moammar Gadhafi, only to send the country into chaos and lawlessness. They supplied arms and training to rebel forces without any real concern about where such weapons could end up and who was being trained.

The communique highlights two issues of critical importance: the partial lifting of the United Nations arms embargo imposed on Libya in March 2011, and the granting of some legitimacy to the recently created Presidential Guard. This legitimacy can be granted by recognizing the Presidential Guard as legitimate militia-free, disciplined armed forces under the state control as claimed by the GNA, which created it just a few days before presenting the guard as such in Vienna.

Without any rigorous checking or proper mechanisms in place, those who met in Vienna declared their support for the Presidential Guard, stressing their readiness to “respond to the Libyan government’s requests for training and equipping the Presidential Guard and vetted forces from throughout Libya.”

Such a step will only complicate the military and political situation in Libya and push the various parties into further conflict, since neither side accepts the other as a legitimate legal army under government control. Gen. Khalifa Hifter does not recognize the newly created Presidential Guard as a legal Libyan army worth arming and training, and vice versa.

Which armed group is legitimately called a Libyan army is a big issue in Libya, since such categorization mean legal status and the ability to train and purchase arms openly. The Libyan Armed Forces, under the leadership of Hifter, was recognized as such by the only elected legislature in the country, namely the Tobruk-based parliament. Over the last two years, the Libyan Armed Forces has been battling terror groups, including IS and Ansar al-Sharia, in Benghazi. It finally liberated much of the embattled city earlier this year, enabling locals to return to their homes and businesses.

Before the GNA was created, Libya’s internationally recognized government repeatedly asked for the lifting of the arms embargo to enable the government to buy arms in legal manners — but to no avail. Recognizing the GNA as a legitimate government of Libya should not mean anything before it includes the armed forces. Hifter does not accept the GNA as a legal government in Libya because it did not gain the confidence of the parliament, as required by the Libyan Political Agreement that was brokered by the UN and signed in December.

Arming any group that declares loyalty to the GNA — even if recognized by the international community as such — does not make it legitimate in the eyes of major players on the ground, including Hifter and Tripoli’s Revolutionary Brigades, for instance. The Presidential Guard is composed of armed militias of mixed loyalties drawing mainly on the city-state of Misrata’s armed and powerful militias. Whether or not the Presidential Guard has fought IS does not mean it should be seen as the focal point for a future Libyan army, since many of its members are implicated in abuses and crimes including the mass murder of civilians. Attempts to integrate them and other militias into a state-controlled armed forces have so far failed, and ordinary Libyans see them as an illegal militia.

Seeking training for such militias just because they declared loyalty to the GNA does not make them an army, nor will it lead to discipline and professionalism required in any professional state army. Previous attempts to train such individuals proved to be useless despite the millions of dollars wasted on such programs. Individuals loyal to certain militias, which protect them, will find it difficult to accept being integrated into a legal and accountable state body in which they can be held responsible for their actions.

It is only a matter of time before the UN votes to partially lift the arms embargo on the newly created Presidential Guard. This will automatically lead to renewed conflict because Hifter and his forces — which include a large number of Libya’s former professional army — will consider that to be against them despite the success they have scored against terror groups in Benghazi.

The West, and particularly European Union countries, want the GNA to at least curb, if not stop, the flow of immigrants from Libya to the southern EU shores. To do that, they have promised at the ministerial meeting in Vienna to train Libya’s coast guard. But, again, training the so-called Libyan coast guard is no more than old militias being recycled through the GNA to convince major powers that they are indeed under state command.

In 2011, the West rushed to help destroy the former regime in the tribally divided country without any workable plan to restabilize the country afterward, the result of which has been chaos and conflicts across Libya ever since. The West invested heavily — at least politically — in the so-called Libyan revolution, naively believing that once Gadhafi was toppled, the Libyans would be able to sit together and reconcile their differences and move forward. This time, the West is about to repeat its errors by recognizing old militias as a new army, giving it legitimacy and recognition.

(Source / 09.06.2016)

Syria 2.0? US To Begin Arms Transfer To Libya’s Newest Government

The United States and other world powers have said they are ready to provide weapons to Libya’s new unity government. The West is looking to shore up the government to fight jihadists and prevent a refugee influx.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry , center, , Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni , left, and U.N. Libya envoy Martin Kobler attend the ministerial meeting on Libya in Vienna, Austria, Monday May 16, 2016. (Leonhard Foeger/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry , center, , Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni , left, and U.N. Libya envoy Martin Kobler attend the ministerial meeting on Libya in Vienna, Austria, Monday May 16, 2016.

Major world powers convening in Vienna on Monday said they were prepared to lift a UN arms embargo on Libya’s new unity government to help it secure control over the chaotic North African oil state.

The West and Libya’s neighbors hope a new UN-backed government will be able to dislodge the so-called “Islamic State” (IS) and prevent an influx of migrants from crossing the sea to Europe.

“The key question is whether Libya remains a place where terrorism, criminal human smuggling and instability continues to expand, or if we are able, together with the government of national unity, to recover stability,” said German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, summing up the issues ahead of a meeting of top diplomats from 21 countries.

The foreign ministers said in a communiqué they were “ready to respond to the Libyan government’s requests for training and equipping” of government forces.

The approval, including from all five permanent members of the UN Security Council, all but ensures an exemption from a 2011 UN arms embargo for the new unity government. Any lifting of the arms embargo would not apply to other armed groups in the country.

Risky decision

International powers prodding Libyans to overcome their differences had said they would support a new government. However, the decision to partially lift the embargo is risky.

There are concerns over whether the new unity government will be able to keep weapons out of the hands of extremists and a multitude of militias, as well as the potential for human rights abuses.

The new UN-backed unity government led by Fayez al-Sarraj sailed into the western city of Tripoli at the end of March in an effort to bring stability to Libya five years after NATO-backed rebels ousted strongman Moammar Gadhafi and the country descended into chaos.

US, allies want to arm Libyan government

The Government of National Accord (GNA) has only very loose control in a collapsed state filled with competing armed groups. It has secured the support of the administration in Tripoli but not a rival parliament in the eastern city of Tobruk.

The two rival administrations have been fighting each other for more than a year. A power vacuum has enabled IS to carve out an area of control around the central coastal city of Sirte, where Western intelligence agencies estimate the extremist group has more than 5,000 fighters. Europe is concerned IS could use Sirte to launch attacks on the continent.

“The situation in Libya is extremely bad, I’ll be very frank, economically, financially and security-wise,” said Sarraj, the head of the GNA. “It requires the collaboration of all parties.”

Sarraj said he would submit a proposal to world powers for “assistance on training and equipping our troops.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry said while the US supported exempting the new unity government from an arms embargo it was “a delicate balance.”

“But we are all of us here today supportive of the fact that if you have a legitimate government and that legitimate government is fighting terrorism, that legitimate government should not be victimized by [the embargo],” he told reporters.

‘Stabilization of Libya is key’

To prop up the new government, world powers are also prepared to give humanitarian and economic assistance.

“The stabilization of Libya is the key answer to the risks that we have, and to stabilize Libya we need a government,” said Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni, who co-chaired the meeting.

The West has shot down the idea of sending in combat troops, but France and Britain have special forces advisers in the country. The United States also has special forces in the country collecting intelligence and is ramping up its drone and air power capability in the region, recently carrying out an airstrike against IS.

Libya descended into chaos in 2011 after NATO intervened to aid rebels seeking to topple longtime ruler Gadhafi. The sudden collapse of the state and presence of massive weapons stockpiles added fuel to regional and tribal rivalries in the oil rich country.

The country’s weapons stockpiles have ended up as far away as Syria, where Libyan jihadists flooded in to oust President Bashar al-Assad. Some battle-hardened jihadists have since returned to Libya.

Libya’s massive weapons caches have also ended up in West Africa, where they helped to strengthen insurgent groups al-Qaeda and Boko Haram.

(Source / 17.05.2016)

US Commandos in Misrata and Benghazi to Fight ISIS

Libya and America

The US administration yesterday joined the European Union in imposing sanctions on the President of the Libyan House of Representatives Aguila Saleh who is accused of blocking the formation of a UN – backed government of national accord which is led by Fayez Al-Sarraj in the capital Tripoli. Meanwhile, it was confirmed yesterday that American, British and Italian special military forces (commandos) are participating in skirmishes between Misrata brigades loyal to Al-Sarraj’s government and ISIS in western Libya.

American soldiers revealed that special American commando forces have been present in two locations in Misrata and Benghazi in Libya for weeks and are coordinating with Libyan combatant groups hostile to ISIS as part of US military strategy that anticipates an increase in the number of ISIS fighters in Libya as a result of their increasing defeats in Syria and Iraq.

The chief spokesman for the Department of Defense Peter Cook said that he would not comment on the details of any military operations in Libya, but added “We continue to contact different Libyan groups in order to help them establish a secure and stable state system”.

In a statement issued by the US Department of the Treasury, it accused Saleh of disrupting the vote of confidence to recognise the authority of Al-Sarraj’s government and of opposing the political transition process in Libya. It also noted that the European Union recently imposed similar sanctions against Saleh, including travel restrictions and the freezing of assets.

Furthermore, Libyan military sources revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that a series of secret meetings between representatives of US and British forces and local leaders loyal to Al-Sarraj’s government were held at the Maitiqa base in order to coordinate them. The sources asserted that they also had information about the presence of British special forces that are fighting alongside the Misrata brigades against ISIS.

(Source / 14.05.2016)

Italian foreign minister announces Vienna meeting to support Libyan unity government

Paolo Gentiloni, Regional foreign minister of Italy.

Paolo Gentiloni, Regional foreign minister of Italy. [File photo]

Regional foreign ministers will meet in the Austrian capital of Vienna next week to discuss supporting security and stability in Libya, Italy’s foreign minister said.

“There will be a meeting in Vienna on May 16 to support the government of al-Sarraj and to push for stability in Libya,” Paolo Gentiloni said during a joint press conference on Monday with his Tunisian counterpart.

Gentiloni stressed that the situation in Libya is heading towards stability and that Italy and Tunisia are completely supportive of Fayez al-Sarraj’s unity government and will seek various ways to support it.

He stressed the importance of security cooperation to secure the Tunisian-Libyan border and combat terrorism.

The Tunisian Foreign Minister Khamis Alaghinawa also stressed his country’s support for the political process in Libya, noting that the Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid’s visit to Tripoli last Friday came within this framework.

(Source / 11.05.2016)