Monday, May 23, 2016

The Perpetual War: US Troops to Libya?

In a desperate fight for the prize that motivated the Empire's removal of nationalist leader Muammar Qaddafi, US Marine General and chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Joseph Dunford, told reporters on Thursday that US troops would be deployed to Libya for a "long-term mission".  The goal of such an incursion into the chaos that is Libya is to secure the oil fields being exploited by western oil companies, notably the French firm Total.  According to Dunford the only thing holding up such an intervention is a formal agreement with the rump government of Libya being propped up by western powers in Tripoli.

The US ambassador to Libya, Jonathan Winer, is in intense negotiations with Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of the Libyan Presidential Council who returned to the country in March from exile in Tunisia.  His group is the quisling regime intended to give a thin veneer of legality to yet another US-NATO military incursion.  But his grip on the country is no means undisputed.  Two other groups, the Islamist General National Congress in Tripoli and the House of Representatives in Tobruk have not recognized al-Sarraj's authority.  Neither does al-Sarraj have a clearly organized army he can call on to enforce his group's rule.  US Special Forces have been in-country since last year attempting to assess the myriad of armed groups that Washington might consider a suitable proxy.

In the midst of the chaos after Qaddaffi's brutal battlefield execution, ISIS fighters spawned from the militias the West supported and armed to topple the uncooperative dictator. Many went to Syria to fight in the civil war raging there; the terror group now controls Sirte, Qaddafi's hometown, with about 3500 fighters in the country.  It was ISIS jihadists that overran the US consulate at Benghazi and killed Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in 2012.  Having created a classic "failed state" with its first intervention, it appears there is a broad agreement among NATO powers that imposing a neocolonial government on Libya is necessary to protect western commercial interests.  Libya has Africa's largest oil reserves, and they are crucial to Europe's supply.  CIA asset, Khalifa Hafter, commander of the erstwhile Libyan National Army, has been conducting his operations against some fourteen oil fields taken from the Petroleum Facilities Guard whose allegiance is to al-Sarraj.

General Dunford did not provide details about the composition of a joint western force, but it has been previously reported that Italy, once the colonial master of Libya while Benito Mussolini ruled, would lead the mission.  Italy wants to secure the North African coast to control an immense refugee problem.  However, when asked about a possible new western involvement in Libya both the Italian and German governments disavowed plans to re-invade the former fascist colony.  Germany has agreed to train Libyan troops in neighboring Tunisia.

The US administration now wants to fight the terrorists it virtually created in Libya.  However, the Pentagon has yet to find an acceptable puppet* among the lawless mess, and election year calculus may rule out any escalation of direct US military involvement for now. Hillary Clinton has been roundly criticized by progressives and Repugnants alike for her unwavering support of the first Libyan intervention.  However the contingency planning goes on and it would not be the first time war is a foregone conclusion.

*Is there reason to expect that training and equipping a Libyan proxy army will be successful in restoring a level of order and societal integration Qaddafi provided Libya? NOT.  The American effort in Iraq to eliminate ISIS through the reconstituted Iraqi army has largely failed so far.  Thirteen years of war in that country have not illuminated terrorist car bombings in the capital or propitiated the Shia militias under the influence of radical Shia cleric Moktada al-Sadr whose supporters poured into the Green Zone last weekend in a violent anti-government protest.  US airstrikes against ISIS have killed uncounted numbers of Iraqi civilians, and although ISIS has lost about 50% of the land area it once controlled, it still holds on to Iraq's second largest city, Mosul and the oil fields nearby.  The Iraqi army is beginning to fight in an organized fashion instead of running away thanks to the relentless battlefield presence of American advisors and airpower; whether that army can recapture Mosul remains to be determined.  The fall in oil prices is costing ISIS as much as American bombs.  Meanwhile, the government of Prime Minister al-Abadi teeters on the brink of dissolution since he is opposed not only by Sunnis outside the Shia-dominated government, but Shias and others fed up with the immense amount of government corruption.  It a strange twist of fate both the US and Iran are backing al-Abadi.