Scramble for Africa? UK troops set for Libya as Sudan deployment begins
One thousand British soldiers appear set to deploy to Libya, with the UK government and the Pentagon thrashing out details of an intervention.
The move comes amid a drive by both France and the US to repeat the military intervention which destabilized the country in 2011.
Since the US-led war which deposed the regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, Libya has largely collapsed. It is now faced with a serious refugee crisis and is home to a branch of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) estimated to be 3,000-strong.
“There is the risk that ISIS fighters could make the crossing, mixing in with refugees,” French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned on Sunday.
Le Drian has been pushing hard for military action, but conceded “everyone is aware of the danger of transferring to a new conflict in Libya the conflict in the Levant [Iraq and Syria] where we are starting to see some positive elements.”
The Times reports that the 1,000 UK troops would be deployed as part of an Italian-led 6,000-strong formation to provide training to Libyan troops.
Foreign troops have not always been greeted warmly in Libya. In late December a group of US Special Forces troops were ejected by a local militia only hours after arriving.
The rumor of further British involvement in Libya comes a day after it was announced a 12-strong UK military team has deployed to South Sudan as part of a UN peacekeeping mission there.
The drawdown of the Iraq and Afghanistan occupations has left the UK military desperate for ways to utilize its troops during an era of rolled-back public spending.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said the Sudan deployment showed the UK’s reach.
“This is another demonstration of the flexibility and global reach of our Armed Forces,” he said in a statement on the Ministry of Defence (MoD) website.
“It will support UN efforts to end some of the world’s most destabilizing conflicts, helping to tackle a key driver of migration.”