The United Nations and the U.S. are considering stepping up their support of an allied government in Libya in combating ISIS forces. Measures on the table include loosening an arms embargo on the country while providing U.S. troops to train local militias.
Currently, ISIS has made the city of Sirte its base of operations in Libya, taking advantage of the political turmoil of the country following the fall of former dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.
The terrorist organization spent 2016 strategically taking control of Libyan oil fields to secure more funding, according to Al-Monitor.
Mounting a focused resistance against ISIS has proven problematic in Libya, which has three separate and competing governments equally as concerned with toppling each other as they are with beating back the terrorist organization.
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There is the General National Congress of Tripoli and the House of Representatives of the east. Then there is the recently formed Libyan Government of National Accord, the only government with U.N. backing.
Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj of GNA has implored the U.N. to lift an arms embargo placed on Libya since 2011. He has also requested unfreezing Libyan deposits abroad to help the country’s ailing economy.
On May 19, U.S. Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, indicated the U.S. may commit a small force of U.S. troops to serve as military advisers to train militias allied with Sarraj, The Washington Post reports.
“There’s a lot of activity going on underneath the surface,” said Dunford. “We’re just not ready to deploy capabilities yet because there hasn’t been an agreement. And frankly, and day that could happen.”
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The general added, “There will be a long-term mission in Libya.”
Currently, the U.N. is considering loosening the weapons embargo for Libya. U.S. officials have admitted that it is difficult to determine which militias to arm and that it would be up to the GNA to determine which individuals could be reliable allies in fighting ISIS.
On May 16, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry signaled that the embargo was likely to be lifted, Mother Jones reports.
“It’s a delicate balance,” Kerry said. “But we are ... supportive of the fact that if you have a legitimate government and that government is fighting terrorism, that legitimate government should not be victimized by [the embargo].”
Corruption Watch Executive Director Andrew Feinstein criticized the idea of providing Libyans more weaponry during an address at the Forum on the Arms Trade.
“Will the West never learn that pouring weapons into an existing conflict only results in that conflict becoming bloodier and longer?” Feinstein said.
Feinstein’s skepticism was echoed by Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut.
“This is an incredibly fragile government,” Murphy said of GNA. “I hope that we ask some very tough questions before we start arming a government that’s on ice that’s still pretty thin.”