New US ground op in Libya would be ‘foolish’

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter © Charles Platiau
For the US Libya is something of a side show: they made a mess out of it and left to create other mess in Syria bringing ISIS into being says former US diplomat and Republican policy adviser Jim Jatras. Now they don’t know what to do about it, he adds.

The US is considering re-launching military action in Libya as a resolution allowing President Obama to use "all necessary and appropriate force" against the threat of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL)is now being considered by Congress. On Thursday the State Department stressed that counter-terrorism remains a top priority for the government.

RT: The situation in Libya is extremely complicated with rival governments and multiple armed groups. Do you think US intervention would help matters?

Jim Jatras: No, of course not. If you look at the headlines in the American media about the Secretary Ash Carter press conference the only thing that was firm and definite is that he wants to increase the maternity leave for female personnel in our military - which I am sure has ISIS terrified. But on the question of Libya and what to do about Libya there was nothing clear coming out of this. There is no credible government in Libya, even the so-called official government in Tobruk. We don’t even know which of these groups we can possibly work with because all this militias are even more radical than the next one as is the case in Syria. But we don’t have any reliable partners who essentially are not jihad terrorists. I think one of the reasons there is nothing definite coming out of from the Secretary is because they don’t know what to say and don’t know what to do.  

RT: The Pentagon is considering military action just four years after the last intervention that didn't work out so well. Why would they want to re-enter the conflict?

JJ: Let’s be clear. For these people Libya is something of a side show having made a complete mess out of it and then leaving that to go and create other mess in Syria and then bring ISIS into being whether intentionally or by accident. They don’t know what to do about that and now they see it is spreading. So, they feel some kind of pressure to do something. And the other bizarre factor here as we have Congress considering authorization to use military force, and the hold up here, if you can believe it, is that the Republicans don’t want to give Obama an authorization unless it is a complete blank check with absolutely no limits geographically or with regard to time. This is a president, of course they say, that they don’t trust but they say “we don’t want to tie the hands of the next president”. So, even within the US government there is total confusion about what to do, what the legal authority is and what a strategy is supposed to be.

RT: If the US goes ahead with this, what form do you think military action could take? Would you expect it to be limited to air strikes? Is deeper involvement possible?

JJ: There have been some reports that maybe some limited introduction of Special Forces on the ground as we have seen in Iraq. There even have been reports that this would be done now in coordination with other powers such as the French, but even possibly with the Russians. Now, I am not sure we can trust those reports. I wouldn’t rule out something along those lines but I can’t imagine they would be foolish enough to make it a large scale ground intervention. But we never know with these people.

RT: In your opinion, what needs to be done to ensure a peaceful transition in Libya and at the same time defeat ISIS in the north of the country?

JJ: I think to defeat ISIS the first thing we need to do is focus back on Iraq and Syria. We got to stop fighting the Russian and the Syrian governments and their efforts in Syria. Find a way to choke off ISIS at the Turkish border, strong arm the Saudis and the Turks to stop their support for the terrorists. If we can weaken ISIS in Iraq and Syria, I think hopefully it starts to become a little more manageable in Libya. But let’s face it, aside from ISIS Libya is going to be a basket case and essentially a failed state for a very long time.

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