Wednesday, February 24, 2016

France's secret war against ISIS in Libya. Reuters.

 ISIS fighters training in Libya. AP/SITE intel group. 

In a new report by France's largest newspaper, Le Monde, the French government has started a secret war against ISIS in Libya. Reuters. According to the report French President Francois Hollande has authorized unofficial military action against ISIS using French special forces as well as the DSGE intelligence agency. France's strategy is to use occasional strikes against ISIS leadership as well as covert action by their special forces. The report also claims that France is working closely with the United Kingdom and the United States. French defense officials refused to comment on the report and will investigate who leaked the information. It has been confirmed that France has conducted reconnaissance missions over Libya and that they have a base in the northern part of Niger, which borders Libya. 

My Comment:
Interesting report if true. I said that someone needed to step up and go to war with ISIS in Libya and it looks like the French have done so. It is possible that this report is false though. I don't deem that very likely, Le Monde is a respectable newspaper, equivalent to the New York Times or Washington Post in terms of stature, and I doubt they would publish this without confirming it. The fact that the French government isn't denying it and is instead trying to go after whoever leaked this to the media means that I think it is true.

Which brings up another issue. Was it right to publish this report? Obviously the operational security of the French soldiers are at risk now. ISIS knows that they are there now and may take action to take these special forces out. They could even try to capture one and everyone knows what ISIS does to captured westerners. It could also derail French plans to hit ISIS targets. ISIS could spread their forces out and instruct them to look out for French ambushes. There is a threat here, that is for sure.

But I also think that the French people deserve to know if their troops are getting deployed. Though France has declared war against ISIS, that may not have translated to the French people that they are going to hit them in Africa as well as Syria and Iraq. And given the fact that French officials have said that they were not going to get involved in Libya, the people need to know that their government wasn't being honest. I am never a fan of any government that deploys troops into harms way and doesn't mention that fact to the people that put them into power. 

Personally though I am glad that someone is taking what is happening in Libya seriously, even if I wish they hadn't kept it a secret. I have said for awhile now that more needed to be done in Libya before it turned into a situation like Syria and Libya. ISIS has made huge gains in the country recently and they need to be checked. I was hoping someone would take a lead role and I am doubly happy that it is a European country, especially one that is partially responsible for the situation in the first place. After all, France had pushed for the overthrow of Qaddafi, a descion that had massive international consequences. It's only fair that the French help with cleaning up the mess they made. 

The only problem is that I don't think it will be enough. Don't get me wrong, the French have a very competent army. Anyone that still uses the "cheese eating surrender monkey's" meme in 2016 has not been paying attention. France has been very effective at controlling Jihad in West Africa and has done serious damage to the various insurgent groups fighting their, including al-Qaeda's Africa branch, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. They have also sent quite a few forces to fight in Syria and Iraq as well. 

The problem is that even highly competent French special forces won't be enough to counter ISIS in Libya. ISIS has at least 5,000 troops there and are recruiting more every day. And they have taken and hold quite a bit of territory. What needs to happen is for ISIS leaders to be killed and for that territory to be taken away from ISIS. The French troops can help with the first task, but not so much with the second. 

What is needed is a full army, not a few special forces fighters and limited airstrikes. But just like in Iraq and Syria, there isn't one available. Libya's two governments (a huge sign of trouble right there) are too busy fighting each other and the various other terrorist groups and militias to focus too much on ISIS. Nobody else will deploy ground troops and until that changes I don't see much happening to defeat ISIS in Libya. Though welcome, this French deployment is largely a band-aid on a bullet wound. It's just not enough. 

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