After Obama's failure in Libya، the risk is high of ISIS establishing a caliphate
Thursday 01/November/2018 - 10:18 AM
Dallas News- by:Frank Kryza There is a significant risk that Libya will become the new caliphate، the long sought Islamic State.
Since President Barack Obama's war in 2011، the Arab Spring that killed Col. Moammar Gadhafi، Libya's brutal and erratic ruler، chaos in Libya has increased. Libya has become a safe haven for leaders of ISIS fleeing ineluctable defeat by American forces in Iraq and Syria.
What is coming is unimaginably worse than Gadhafi.
The decline of Libya، the 16th largest country on the planet، worries the Pentagon. In March، Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser، head of the Africa Command، stated in Congressional testimony that "we are heavily involved in the counterterrorism piece" in Libya. The Africa Command acknowledges four airstrikes against ISIS bases in Libya، but credible reports put the actual number at twice that.
ISIS is already in charge of some parts of Libya، a country with the world's tenth largest oil reserves and likely many billions of barrels of oil not yet discovered. With the collapse of a central government، different parts of the country are ruled by local militias. America's intervention in Libya in 2011، under the auspices of NATO، was only partially successful. No analyst views events in Libya in the last six years as anything but a great disaster.
"We came، we saw، he died،" joked Secretary Hillary Clinton of Gadhafi's murder. Yet killing Gadhafi came at a high price when it became clear no one had the courage to replace him. American television was soon airing footage of young، healthy Libyans being sold in outdoor markets for labor like slaves. The problem wasn't getting rid of Gadhafi، but rather that there was no second act. Neither the U.S. nor Europeans were willing to help find competent leadership.
Getting accurate information about Tripoli، Libya's capital، has been getting harder since 2011. Our CIA estimates there are between 20،000 and 30،000 ISIS fighters still in the war، but at least 5،000 of those bad guys are hightailing it to safety in Tripoli.
On November 13، 2014، ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi، with uncanny strategic insight، released a tape in which he accepted pledges of allegiance from supporters in Libya. Al-Baghdadi saw a splendid new stage for victory، and one with deep-water ports and hundreds of billions of petrodollars waiting in the ground.
Today chaos reigns. Few are better at exploiting chaos than ISIS. As Obama wrote in his memoirs، Libya is likely his greatest regret: "I did a little too much counting on other countries to help support government formation in Libya and now it's kind of a mess."
My purpose in bringing these terrifying images together is to raise consciousness of a problem that may soon explode، to the surprise of almost all Americans، including those who are avid consumers of news. Imagine a broadcast announcing that Libya is not Libya any more. It is now the Sunni caliphate، the holy land، the replacement for the destroyed Syria and Iraq. And al-Baghdadi، or someone of his ilk، is now in charge.
"Boots on the ground" is a phrase rarely used by the Trump Administration. And with good reason: 6،251 American soldiers have been killed since 2001; some 45،170 have been wounded. That is a heavy price. We are already too involved in combating ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
But if we do nothing، Libya will cease to exist as a country. Imagine، if you can، an Islamic caliphate on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea not far from Italy. It is a grim vision.
Frank Kryza is a member of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) in London and serves as Tunisia's honorary consul resident in Dallas. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.