Is Libya becoming the next Syria and/or Iraq?

According to Strategy Page, it may be.

Officially ISIL describes their Libyan operation as just another “province” in their Islamic state. But in fact Libya is the largest concentration of ISIL personnel outside of the 20,000 in Syria and Iraq. Libya is also where an unusual number of key ISIL personnel (leaders, tech experts, trainers) are showing up. The reality is that ISIL is establishing another relatively secure base in Libya, one that could serve as a backup headquarters if the core of the current “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria is lost. ISIL also has franchises in nine other countries but none as strong and secure as Libya.

ISIL is trying to seize oil fields and export terminals so that it can try and raise cash by smuggling oil out. Actually doing that has proved very difficult but ISIL needs the money. ISIL, as a whole, is suffering from a severe cash shortage. ISIL personnel in Syria and Iraq report pay cuts of up to 50 percent and many are not getting paid on time. The reason for that is increasing air attacks on revenue producing operations (mainly oil pumping and smuggling) in Syria. In 2014 ISIL seized huge (over a billion dollars) amounts of cash and access to many salable items like antiquities and slaves. This helped ISIL operate and expand. The many nations fighting ISIL soon figured that out and went after those sources of income.

By the end of 2015 ISIL was feeling the effects and the Libyan operation was ordered to pay its own way. In Libya this is being done via theft, extortion and smuggling (mainly of illegal migrants into Europe). Obviously one way to limit ISIL growth in Libya is to attack the income producing activities. That is difficult because a lot of the smuggling is protected from attack by the presence of the illegal migrants. On land ISIL is also using human shields to gain some protection from the growing number of Western air attacks.

. . .

Greed, corruption and factionalism has been key in preventing the formation of a national government or dealing with the growth of Islamic terrorism (and calls for turning Libya into a religious dictatorship) … many Libyan leaders are well aware that ISIL will continue to exist and expand in Libya unless there is a powerful offensive to clear them out. That requires a united Libya and some foreign assistance. None of that will be available without the [Government of National Accord].

There’s more at the link.  Highly recommended reading.

My biggest worry is that neocons and their fellow travelers will try to get the USA to intervene in Libya with troops on the ground.  We don’t need another massive dose of suck and fail like Iraq or Afghanistan.  That’s largely what gave rise to ISIL in the first place.  Libya is an Arab and Mediterranean problem, that can only be solved by Arab and Mediterranean nations.  We can’t do it for them.  Every time we’ve tried to do so in other areas, we’ve made things worse.  I hope our leaders have learned from that . . . but I have my doubts.



  1. What a strange world. Turkey is subsidizing ISIL's efforts and then complains about having 2 million refugees.

    The US is seeing "moderate" Islamic terrorists and arming them. WTF! Nobody else can see those fine graduations of "terrorists".

    Western Europe, Germany in particular, may find it necessary to build high-population-density camps to house migrants.

    Nationalism is ascending around the world.

  2. I kinda subscribe to the Colin Powell theory, if your break it you own it. And the US had a lot to do with the current situation. And now we have mostly washed our hands of the situation.

    Italy, France, and the UK with the help of the over threw Moammar Ghaddify. And now Libya is a failed state, over 1/3rd of the nation refugees, refuge for Isis, and it's destabilizing other countries in the area.

    I wonder how much of the Italian opposition to US drones is an elite issue. Basic anti-Americanism that is so fashionable. Or is Italy trying to avoid an Islamic attack by not allowing US drones to fly from Italy? But note the drone campaign in Yemen was a failure.

    Egypt is the gorilla in the neighborhood, and I have been surprised they have not done more. I don't see US boots on the ground under the current US President without some type of UN resolution. And Russia is happy to allow Libya to continue to be a failed state as revenge for their interests being ignored by the US and Western Europe. Plus it puts more pressure on Europe with more refugees, which combined with Syrian refugees is a one two punch to the European gut. So I don't see any UN resolution happening. The hope is somehow the Libyan governments merge, and starts going after Isis. And there are outside players (Gulf funding, Isis, Egypt, Turkey) that are stirring the pot. Plus ethnic issues, where Libya really should be split into 3-4 countries.

    Another Anon

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