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Obama looks to take fight to Islamic State in Libya

AFP , Saturday 30 Jan 2016
Obama
President Barack Obama speaks in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington, Friday, Jan. 29, 2016 (AP Photo)
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US President Barack Obama has asked key advisors to draw up options for ratcheting up the fight against the Islamic State militant group, including opening a new front in Libya.

Eighteen months after a US-led coalition began airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, multiple administration sources said Friday that the White House wants to speed up and broaden the effort.

Efforts will deepen to retake Raqa in Syria, Mosul in Iraq and to check the militants' growth in Afghanistan, but there is an increasing focus on Libya.

Potential options are said to range from intensified air strikes to participation in a UN-backed ground force that would help take on Libya's estimated 3,000 Islamic State fighters.

The Defense Department "stands ready to perform the full spectrum of military operations as required," spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Michelle Baldanza told AFP.

"We also continue to work with the international community to mitigate conflict in Libya, promote stability, and strengthen governance."

Officials caution that Obama has not yet been presented with concrete military plans, though the security situation is acute.

"Action in Libya is needed before Libya becomes a sanctuary for ISIL, before they become extremely hard to dislodge," said one US defense official.

"We don't want a situation like in Iraq or Syria."

Since rebels and Western airpower toppled Muammar Gaddafi's regime in 2011, the country has effectively lacked a government.

In the chaos a disparate group of foreign fighters, homegrown militiamen, tribes and remnants of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group have coalesced around the ISIS banner and gained a foothold.

Islamist militants have recently taken control of Gaddafi's home town of Sirte, a strategic port near oilfields that could provide a lucrative source of income.

Until now, US involvement in Libya has been limited to isolated airstrikes and the deployment of US special forces, who are building ties with local armed groups and providing intelligence.

In November, an American F-16 fighter jet struck the eastern town of Derna, killing Abu Nabil -- also known as Wissam Najm Abd Zayd al-Zubaydi -- the local ISIS leader.

On Thursday, Obama convened his National Security Council to discuss current operations and the next steps.

"The president directed his national security team to continue efforts to strengthen governance and support ongoing counterterrorism efforts in Libya and other countries where ISIL has sought to establish a presence," according to a White House account of the meeting.

Republicans, with one eye on November's US presidential election, have pilloried Obama and one-time secretary of state Hillary Clinton for not doing more to prevent the Islamic State's rise.

"Congress has been calling for a real strategy from the president to defeat ISIS," said a spokesman for House Speaker Paul Ryan.

"We'll see whether this is just more talk or if it will be backed up with the will and the resources necessary for victory."

Further steps -- including ground operations -- are likely to depend on Libyans' ability to form a Government of National Accord, which the United Nations is still trying to bring together.

"There needs to be a political solution to get a military solution," said another defense official, echoing comments from diplomats.

"We hope that there is the beginning of a political solution so that there is a legitimate government that can invite us to go after ISIL."

Washington is also looking to European nations -- facing a more acute threat from the collapse of a country a short distance across the Mediterranean -- to play a leading role, including former Libyan colonial power Italy.

Obama will host the Italian head of state, President Sergio Mattarella, at the White House on February 8.

France and Britain are also slated as possible contributors.

Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to meet his European counterparts in Rome on February 2.

"The idea is to have a coalition of nations," a defense official said.

Some security experts say the deteriorating situation on the ground may leave the administration few options but to launch a ground campaign, even if the long-term path is unclear.

"The unfortunate reality is that this is a bad option, but it's the only one," said Patrick Skinner, a former CIA case officer now with The Soufan Group, a consultancy.

ISIS-linked terror attacks from Turkey to Indonesia have sharpened concerns about the group's reach and potency, even as it suffers losses in Mesopotamia.

"They cannot let the Islamic State run Libya, they just can't."

"They are holding really key spots. You can't let the Islamic State have a port, that's insane."

According to Karim Mezran, a Libya expert at the Atlantic Council, any government in Libya is unlikely to survive without foreign support and would have to invite in foreign troops.

"Without an international force of support, there is no way the new government can ever get into Tripoli," he said.

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3



NewEgypt123
30-01-2016 06:49pm
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Seal the Borders
If a Western intervention takes place in Egypt, then the country must completely seal the Libyan border to the point that not even an ant may cross it. Otherwise, refugees, weapons, militants, and other undesirables will swamp Egypt and spread chaos within Egypt. The security gains of the last few years will be for nothing. Egyptians sacrificed and lost a lot to be somewhat stable, do not squander this in the face of a Libyan intervention.
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Sam Enslow
31-01-2016 08:36am
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7+
Who is providing this?
The US is providing Egypt with equipment and training to secure its borders with Libya. This has been going on for some time. But do not mention this. The US just finished a major water treatment plant in Egypt for free. The Italians have large solar energy projects and irrigation projects finished and continuing. In fact many Western countries are delivering help to Egypt. But do not mention them because that goes against the narrative.
Sam Enslow
31-01-2016 08:36am
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4+
Who is providing this?
The US is providing Egypt with equipment and training to secure its borders with Libya. This has been going on for some time. But do not mention this. The US just finished a major water treatment plant in Egypt for free. The Italians have large solar energy projects and irrigation projects finished and continuing. In fact many Western countries are delivering help to Egypt. But do not mention them because that goes against the narrative.
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Aly Sadek - Toronto-Canada
30-01-2016 06:32pm
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Egypt...
EGYPT from the east....ALGERIA from the west .. to intercept the flow of the DAESH LUNATIC, retarded thugs moving in from NORTH AFRICA .. IN FULL COOPERATION WITH THE US AND OTHER MILITARY POWERS...and to have "PERMANENT" military presence over there , side by side with LIBYA..
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1



NewEgypt123
30-01-2016 04:11pm
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Egypt's Sphere of Influence
If the US or any country wants to intervene in Libya it should be through Egypt's military and no other way. Libya is Egypt's neighbor and within its sphere of influence. Any intervention will affect Egypt; therefore, any intervention must be conducted through the Egyptian government. History has shown us that Western intervention in the region has had negative impacts on Egypt. Another Western intervention in Libya will have more negative impact on Egypt. If the West wants to intervene then they must have Egypt's permission. Furthermore, it should be Egyptians intervening. The only role for the West should be economic and military support. They should provide financial aid to fund the effort, and provide equipment to Egypt. That is it. Egypt doesn't need a reckless foreign military on its Western border. Egypt is more than capable to handle Libya, especially if Western economic and military aid is provided. Egypt must protect its sphere of influence or it risks losing it.
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Al
31-01-2016 12:06am
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If Egypt can deliver all that vlaue
Why our economy is down the drain? why we have one of highest levels of poverty and illiteracy in the regions, just after Yemen? If we have a clue on how to deliver all these values to Libya what's stopping us from eating our own dog food?
NewEgypt123
30-01-2016 07:05pm
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Response to AL - Value Add
Egypt has plenty of value to add to Libya. Egypt can secure and unite Libya. As of now, Libya ceases to exist as a nation. Economically, Egypt can provide Libya with the labor and material needed to rebuild. Let's not forget that the Libyan economy, or lack thereof, is solely oil production. Where will the cement, rebar, piping and other building materials come from? I think that is quite a bit of value that Egypt can provide for war-torn Libya.
Al
30-01-2016 06:47pm
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Egypt has no value-add in Libya
Egypt has too much to fix internally, and has no value-add in Libya. Sure terrorism there would impact us, but being asked permission by the US or others if they want to intervene is too much chest-thumping with little substance!
NewEgypt123
30-01-2016 06:45pm
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Response to Sam Enslow
Your statement, "The US doesn't need Egypt's permission to do anything." is the exact reason that the region suffers from so much instability. If the US can't work with regional actors then it has no place in the region. As for "Egypt will do little more than complain;" Egypt has every right to complain about the previous Western interventions in the region which have done nothing but provide instability in the region, and, specifically, in Egypt. Wouldn't you complain if I went to your neighbor's house and shot off fireworks in the middle of the night, every night, and they landed in your yard? I think you would. When the US realizes that Egypt is the only actor in the region with the capability and experience in dealing with the region, things will start to get better. I think it's pretty hard to disagree with my premise.
Aly Sadek -Toronto-Canada
30-01-2016 05:57pm
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Egypt..
.. . Egypt must protect its sphere of influence or it risks losing it.....1000% RIGHT...DEAD ON..
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Sam Enslow
30-01-2016 05:20pm
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Egypt's permission?
The US doesn't need Egypt's permission to do anything. It would be nice to have Egypt's cooperation for a change. But Egypt will do little more than complain. Help? No.
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