Against Terrorism and Migration (II)

BERLIN/TRIPOLI | | libyen

BERLIN/TRIPOLI (Own report) - Berlin is energetically insisting on the appointment of a government of national unity in Libya in preparation for expanding two Bundeswehr missions. The future government, according to internal documents, should extend an "invitation" to the EU, to expand its Mediterranean anti-refugee defense all the way onto Libyan territory. It should set up armed forces that will be trained also by the Bundeswehr to go to war against the "Islamic State" (IS/Daesh). The USA, Great Britain, and France recently began operations ranging from air strikes to Special Forces operations, expanding the war against Daesh to Libya. However, without the ground troops, that the future Libyan government is supposed to organize, there can be no durable victory, according to military experts. While US media is speculating on the establishment of a pro-western regime in Tripoli, with the enthronement of a king, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is strongly insisting on the UN-constituted government of national unity being installed in office. Experts are already predicting its failure.

Condemned to Irrelevance

Steinmeier's demand is the result of the current controversy over the list of the future unity government's cabinet members, which is being drawn up, within the framework of the United Nations' Libya Negotiations, under the supervision and massive pressure of the UN Special Envoy, Martin Kobler, from Germany. Now, it must be accepted by the "Tobruk Parliament," the elected "House of Representatives," which has been installed in Tobruk, in eastern Libya, since it was forced to flee Tripoli and the Islamist militias. Strong objections to the cabinet list are being raised from within their ranks, because Kobler insists on using it to obtain the integration of the Islamist forces, who, earlier, had forced the Tobruk parliament to flee. Experts are warning that Kobler's government has no durability. "Granting recognition to a government that has insufficient backing will condemn it to irrelevance," according to the International Crisis Group, an internationally operating western think tank.[1] In spite of the warnings, Kobler has maintained his pressure and gotten 100 Tobruk parliamentarians to tentatively consider agreeing to the cabinet list. (The obligatory majority is 99.) However, because of threats, the parliamentarians were forced not to participate in Tuesday's vote on the unity government.[2] Kobler, the German Foreign Ministry and representatives of other western powers are raging. They insist that the vote be repeated and the government be immediately installed.

Invitation on Command

The West sees the situation as urgent for two reasons: One is the planned expansion of the EU's defense against refugees. According to the EU's FRONTEX border authorities, last year, in spite of the efforts made within the framework of the EU's naval operations in the Mediterranean ("EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia") 154,725 refugees still reached Europe via the "central Mediterranean route." Around 91 percent of them departed from the shores of Libya. To prevent the refugees from leaving Libya in the future, the naval operation, which, at the moment, is limited to international waters ("Phase 2A") should be extended to Libyan territorial waters ("Phase 2B") and, ultimately, to Libyan territory ("Phase 3"). As a recently Wikileaked internal report of EUNAVFOR MED commander Enrico Credendino confirms, the military is long since prepared to carry this out, but is waiting for an official "invitation" from a legitimate Libyan government. On the one hand, this is considered essential for providing a legal framework to the operations on foreign territory. And on the other, it is necessary to clarify how the EU military is supposed to handle apprehended smugglers, writes Credendino. Because they can hardly be released, they must either be turned over to Libya for prosecution or an agreement be reached with the Libyan authorities, wherein "they waive their right to prosecute suspected smugglers in Libya."[3] However, only a legitimate government can enforce or waiver its rights of sovereignty.

The Libyan Coast Guard

Credendino makes also the plea for combining the useful with the desirable and offer the eventual Libyan unity government, in exchange for its invitation to have EUNAVFOR MED intervene, to provide support in setting up a coast guard and possibly even a navy. Libya, in any case, needs a powerful coast guard capable of protecting "its own borders therefore preventing illegal migration from Libyan shores" writes the Rear Admiral.[4] He had discussed the issue already in November with a member of the cabinet drawn up under Kobler's supervision. The Libyan minister-to-be showed sympathy toward EU support measures for setting up a Libyan coast guard and navy. Credendino also reported that he had met with representatives of the current Libyan Coast Guard, in Tunis. These men are probably partners of the EUBAM Libya, an EU Border Assistance Mission, sent to Libya back in May 2013 to train and develop the remaining segments of Libya's Coast Guard, still in tact. EUBAM Libya has since fled into exile to Tunis to escape the combat, and for safekeeping for future assignments. Just ten days ago, its mandate was extended to August 21. If necessary, it can be activated on short notice.

Special Forces in Operation

The expansion of the war on the "Islamic State" (IS / Daesh) is the second reason, why the western powers are insisting on the establishment of a government of national unity in Libya. Daesh has established itself in Libya, taken control of the port city, Sirte, including a surrounding area of - as the German government reports - "approx. 300 km in length and 200 km in depth" [5] and is systematically expanding to other cities. The United States, Great Britain, and France have begun to expand their operations against the organization to include Libya. Back in November, US fighter planes bombed an alleged location of a Daesh leader in Darna, a jihadi stronghold in eastern Libya. According to Paris, French ground work had been essential in paving the way for the attack. Last Friday, the US Air Force bombed a Daesh camp in Sabratha in Western Libya. As was made known in the middle of the week, French Special Forces and secret service agents are on mission in Libya. US and British elite forces are also operating there.

Looking for Ground Forces

However, western military strategists predict that air strikes and Special Forces alone will be as little effective against Daesh in Libya as it had been in Syria and Iraq. Native ground troops similar to the Peshmerga in northern Iraq are also needed. Apparently, test runs were initiated. According to reports, French elite troops had been involved in the combat on the side of the Tobruk government troops, commanded by General Khalifa Haftar, which, over the past few days, drove Daesh units out of Bengasi.[6] However, throughout the entire western part of the country, Haftar, one of the most powerful Libyan military commanders, is not acknowledged by the Islamists. His troops could quickly transform a campaign against Daesh positions in western Libya, into a war on all of the Islamists in power in Tripoli. In the eyes of the western powers, this is an additional cause for urgency in building a government of national unity, with whose military an offensive against Daesh could be waged throughout the country.

Bundeswehr Training

As the German government recently announced, the Bundeswehr is foreseen as one of the militaries in line to train the Libyan armed forces. "We have agreed that Germany stands ready to support a new Libyan government in the creation of state structures," declared Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, in late January. This would include measures in the "security sector."[7] Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen had previously made a similar declaration.[8] If UN Special Envoy Kobler has success in officially getting the government of national unity instated in office, the Bundeswehr mission could begin at any time.

A King for Libya

Given the fact that observers assume that the future unity government will fail, US specialists recently proposed to mask the prevailing chaos by enthroning a king. Mohammed al Senussi, a descendant of the former autocrat Idris al Senussi, currently living in exile in London, is considered a candidate. Only, the "restoration of the monarchy" can give Libya hope, it was opinioned,[9] - five years after NATO began its 2011 intervention, which, in the West, had been largely celebrated as the liberation of the country, when in fact this set the state and population on a direct route into havoc.

[1] Kareem Fahim, Suliman Ali Zway: Libya's Rival Factions Sign Deal for Unity Government. www.nytimes.com 17.12.2015.
[2] Libya unity government vote stalls after threats. gulfnews.com 25.02.2016.
[3], [4] Sophia End of Month 6 Report. EEAS(2016) 126. Brussels, 28 January 2016.
[5] Antwort des Staatssekretärs Dr. Markus Ederer auf eine Anfrage der Abgeordneten Katja Keul (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) vom 8. Februar 2016. Deutscher Bundestag, Drucksache 18/7510, 12.02.2016.
[6] French forces arrive in Libya to support Haftar in Benghazi. www.middleeastmonitor.com 23.02.2016.
[7] Parlament lehnt Einheitsregierung ab. www.tagesschau.de 25.01.2016.
[8] See Krieg um die Gegenküste.
[9] Declan Walsh: A Radical Idea to Rebuild a Shattered Libya: Restore the Monarchy. www.nytimes.com 24.02.2016.