On Wednesday, it was reported that Libyan militia groups supportive of the GNA, the Government of National Accord – the interim government installed by the United Nations – had, with the help of the United States via airstrikes that began August 1, retaken the northern city of Sirte.
“Pro-government Libyan militias backed by American airpower,”wrote the New York Times, “said Wednesday that they had seized the Islamic State’s last stronghold in the country, in the seaside city of Surt.”
The Times went on to say that “If confirmed, the capture would be a severe blow to the militant organization’s expansion into North Africa, and extend the string of territorial retreats it has suffered this year in Syria and Iraq.”
Last Monday, the Pentagon announced that the U.S., at the request of the GNA, had begun a campaign of precision airstrikes targeting ISIS fighters in Libya. The strikes, according to Press Secretary Peter Cook, were approved by President Obama in order “to enable the GNA to make a decisive, strategic advance” in the chaos that is Libya since the US intervention in 2011.
Last week, Underground Reporter proposed an alternative theory, that the new campaign – which, according to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joe Dunford’s own assessment, comes at a time when ISIS has been weakened in North Africa – is far less about combating terrorism and far more about preventing the rise of another Gaddafi-led regime in Libya.
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, who was Muammar Gaddafi’s favored son and likely heir, was quietly released – without explanation – from his southern Libyan prison in April. Saif had been captured following the death of his father in 2011, as the Gaddafi family attempted to flee the country.
Saif, who has a doctorate in global governance, was a high society player in England, where he lived before the US intervention. He acted as the facilitator between those who wished to deal with oil-rich Libya but didn’t want to be associated with the pariah that his father had become.
It appears that Saif is now living under the protection of one of the two major militia groups, the Zintanis, jockeying to fill the power vacuum inside Libya. His sudden release prompted some, such as professor Yehudit Ronen of Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, to ask the question:
“Does the Zintan armed militia that released him envision his return to the center of the Libyan political stage?” she told the Jerusalem Post, asking further if the Zintanis “wish to seize his political charisma, experience and diplomatic talents and connections to gain the upper hand in Libya’s chaotic and violent struggle, which has reached in fact a tragic stalemate?”
Given the evidence, and the fact that the US is suddenly choosing to fight terror groups within Libya at a time when – according to the New York Times’ recent estimate – terrorists in that country have been severely weakened, this view of the situation is…