Tuesday, February 9, 2016

ISIS is continuing to expand in Libya and has been capturing oil fields. LA Times.

Libyan firefighters battle a blaze set by ISIS.  LA Times/AFP/Getty.

ISIS is continuing to expand in Libya and are capturing oil and other resources. LA Times.  ISIS has taken more territory in the country and are levying taxes and selling oil. Satellite reconnaissance shows that ISIS is also fortifying their positions and are creating new training bases in the country. ISIS has at least 5,000 fighters in Libya, which is nearly double the amount that they had last fall. Libya has been chaotic at best since the fall of Muammar Qaddafi, with two competing national governments and jihadist groups and militias all vying for control. Recently, African Jihadist fighters have begun to pour into Libya instead of Syria and Iraq, due to setbacks for ISIS in both of those countries. Europe and the United States are weighing their options, including sending in ground troops, advisers and launching airstrikes. Only one airstrike, targeting an ISIS leader, has been launched by the United States by Libya. ISIS has used Libya as a base to launch attacks in other countries, including two major ones in Tunisia. In response, Tunisia is building a wall between their country and Libya and the United States is recommending that Egypt does the same thing. 

My Comment:
First of all I have to point out some hypocrisy here. According to the US government, it's perfectly fine for Tunisia to build a security wall to protect their country from bad people. It's such a great idea that they are recommending that Egypt do the same thing. But when Donald Trump says that America should build a wall to keep people out, he's the anti-Christ? This doesn't have much to do with the article, so I will leave it at that. Just strikes me as hypocritical. 

As for ISIS, Libya is becoming just as large as a threat as Syria and Iraq are. ISIS is growing in Libya and has taken quite a bit of territory. Just off of my rough eyeball estimate from a map that may or not be accurate, they seem to control about 1/3rd of the coast of Libya, which is where the vast majority of people live. It is also where most of the oil is located in the country. Which of course means that ISIS can extract both taxes and oil revenue from the region they captured. 

They can use those funds to stage new attacks and capture new territory. Already ISIS has staged three separate attacks on Tunisia from Libya, which have killed many western tourists. The greater fear is that they could use Libya as a launchpad to attack Europe. Italy is not that far away from Libya, and Libya is right on the path that refugees and migrants are using to enter Europe from Africa. It would be trivial to sneak fighters into Europe and launch attacks. They already do that from Syria, but given how close Libya is to Europe, it would be even easier. 

Given how big the threat is, it is amazing to me that nobody is doing anything concrete against ISIS in Libya. There is some talk of airstrikes or special forces, but nothing has been decided and any action seems far away in the future. Sure the militias on the ground are fighting them, but given how ISIS was able to capture most of Syria and a decent chunk of Iraq by exploiting chaos caused by civil war, isn't it possible that they could do the same thing in Libya? To a certain extent they already have. After all, ISIS has only been in Libya since September of 2014. It didn't take them much time at all to capture what they have taken in Libya, and I wouldn't be too surprised if they took even more before this year is over. 

There just doesn't seem to be the political will to do anything in Libya. I understand why that is in America. President Obama doesn't want to admit that his war in Libya was not a success. Removing Qaddafi was a mistake and what replaced him was chaos. Sending in airstrikes or troops would be an open admission that Obama screwed up and it could cause problems for his party as well. After all, Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State when Libya happened, and her fingerprints are all over what has happened in the country since the fall of Qaddafi. Doing anything in Libya militarily would damage Obama's legacy and hurt his party's chances in the 2016 presidential elections. 

What I don't understand is how Europe can be so blase about Libya. They are the ones that are going to suffer from the terror attacks launched from the country and ISIS has shown that they can kill a huge amount of people in Europe when given half a chance. The United States can afford to ignore the problem because Libya is an ocean away from America, but that isn't the case for Europe. Part of it is the diplomatic nightmare that is Libya right now, with all the competing sanctions. But you would think that they would be sending in airstrikes, right? I guess France is pretty distracted with Syria and Iraq right now. Their aircraft carrier is stationed where it can hit those targets, not Libya, and they are also committed to fighting al-Qaeda in northwest Africa. But it doesn't explain why Italy or other EU countries aren't sending in their bombers. 

Even though the media is covering ISIS's rise in Libya, I think it is going to take a major terrorist attack in Europe, comparable or worse then the Paris attacks, to really wake people up. The Bardo Museum attack and the Sousse assault didn't quite reveal the entire scope of the threat Libya poses. I see it as a dagger pointed at the throat of Europe and militants based out of there could do an extreme amount of damage. I would not be surprised if there is a major terror attack in Europe this year that was planed and executed from Libya. 

What would I do in Libya? A massive bombing campaign targeting not only the leadership of ISIS, but their sources of income as well. There is no reason why ISIS should ever control an active oil well. If environmental or other concerns prevent us from bombing the wells, any trucks or logistical supplies in the area could be destroyed instead. Targeting oil trucks and wells in Syria, by Russia and the United States, has damaged ISIS severely in that country, so I don't understand why it wouldn't work in Libya as well. I wouldn't deploy ground troops though. Libya is a mess, and I don't think any of the governments or militia groups there are worth fighting for. 

None of that is likely to happen. Obama wants to secure his legacy, and Europe appears to be distracted by other things. ISIS will continue to grow in Libya and there power base there will expand. They will collect million of dollars from their oil wells and tax base and they will continue to raise a cadre of battle hardened veterans. And the longer that they are able to do so, the worse the problem will get. But nobody will do anything about it until it is too late... 

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