BY SCOTT TAYLOR
Although it is largely eclipsed by mainstream media coverage of Britain’s startling Brexit referendum results, Donald Trump’s inexplicable Republican presidential candidacy and allegations of Russia itching to start World War Three, news reports are still coming out of war-torn Libya.
The good news spin on these developments is that the Libyan militias battling Daesh are gaining the upper hand in the city of Sirte. One report speculated that Daesh had intended to use port facilities in Sirte as a bolt-hole for its fighters should they be forced out of Iraq and Syria.
Now that the anti-Daesh Libyan militia controls the entrance to the harbour in Sirte, we are to believe that Daesh’s escape plan has been foiled. Nowhere in that speculative theory did anyone factor in how Daesh’s fleeing forces would be able to sail from Syria to Libya without the U.S.-led alliance blowing them out of the water. But hey, it feels good to know that Daesh has their bolt-hole shut.
Then there are, of course, the questions of who exactly are these Libyan militias that are currently battling Daesh, and why are they so keen to control Sirte.
One would assume that because we know Daesh to be evil, then anyone battling them must therefore be good. Well, it turns out that the primary force fighting Daesh is a group that calls itself the Abu Salim Martyrs Brigade, which is closely linked to Ansar al-Sharia, the Libyan affiliate of al-Qaeda. Whoops!
These jokers were a prominent force among the Libyan rebels who overthrew President Moammar Gadhafi back in 2011. They are also the same group accused of killing U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in the September 2012 attack against the American consulate in Benghazi. Just like Daesh, these guys are considered an Islamic extremist terrorist organization.
Also fighting in Sirte against Daesh are militiamen from the city of Misrata who are affiliated with an alliance known as Libya Dawn.
This ragtag collection of ill-disciplined, heavily armed fighters has controlled virtually all of western Libya — the region known as Tripolitania — since the death of Gadhafi.
In the wake of the Gadhafi regime, the Misrata militia went on an orgy of revenge killings and conducted a widescale operation to ethnically cleanse out sub-Saharan Libyans from the coastal region. Libya Dawn is also battling the internationally recognized — albeit totally impotent — government of Libya. Even with British and French special forces advisors, the fledgling Libyan National Army, ostensibly loyal to the government, can sustain only a tenuous hold on the eastern Libyan territory known as Cyrenaica.
In order to fully grasp the anarchy that has descended upon Libya since 2011, one needs to understand that there are an estimated 2,000 different militias operating throughout the country within their own self-declared fiefdoms.
These militias range in size from a few dozen fighters to, in the case of Daesh, an estimated 3,000 jihadists. This is in a country with a total population of only six million. The lack of any central or even regional authority has resulted in complete lawlessness throughout the entire country.
What had been an underground trickle of human trafficking under Gadhafi’s rule has become a flood of humanity being disgorged from Libyan ports, intent on seeking a better life in Western Europe. There are horrific tales of the abuse suffered by those desperate migrants at the hands of Libyan militias.
It is in the interest of the entire world to end the anarchy and to restore law and order to what was a prosperous, oil-exporting modern and secular sate. It was only through NATO’s intervention that Gadhafi was toppled, and only through NATO’s failure to ensure the rebel forces were disarmed that Libya was plunged into complete chaos.
It is therefore NATO’s responsibility to mount a second intervention into Libya to restore a secure environment. Canada assumed command of the first intervention, and we should therefore be the first to admit that we screwed up — massively — and to volunteer to take a leading role in the necessary operation to fix what NATO broke.