News / Middle East

    Is It Time to Arm Anti-Islamic State Militias in Libya?

    A man pulls a wheelbarrow past destroyed buildings after clashes between military forces loyal to Libya's eastern government and Islamist fighters, in Benghazi, Libya, Feb. 28, 2016.
    A man pulls a wheelbarrow past destroyed buildings after clashes between military forces loyal to Libya's eastern government and Islamist fighters, in Benghazi, Libya, Feb. 28, 2016.
    Mohamed Elshinnawi

    By multiple accounts, Islamic State (IS) militants are getting stronger in Libya, where, according to U.S. intelligence, their ranks have doubled to about 6,500.

    With Libyan politicians unable to form a unity government, some analysts say local militias are the best hope for stopping the radical Islamists, who recently secured a stronghold in the coastal city of Sirte.

    “In Libya there are many such forces who oppose ISIS, but these forces and a coalition of convenience can be made, and the Libyan nation can be rebuilt by bringing together these main fighting forces to work together against ISIS," said Middle East researcher and analyst Jason Pack, using a common acronym for IS, which also goes by ISIL and Daesh.

    Saying Libyan militias can act as the ground troops needed to retake IS-held territories, he also cautioned that such a coalition would first need training and weapons before it could launch a Western-airpower-backed attack on Sirte.

    “The cleansing of Benghazi and Ajdabiya of Jihadist cells of both ISIS and Ansar al Sharia is a breakthrough, and the momentum of these gains needs to be carried forward and hopefully reach a new militia coalition that can launch an attack on Sirte,” Pack added.

    Brookings Institution military expert Michael O’Hanlon also advocates a regional coalition approach, saying IS militants are already entrenched in Libya and therefore too strong for any one local group to face alone.

    “Realistically we have to help certain Libyan groups that we believe we can work with to get stronger in certain parts of Libya, then pressure ISIS the ground, with U.S. pressure from the air,” he said.

    Ambassador questions idea

    But Ibrahim Al Dabashi, Libyan Ambassador to the UN, noted that such move could complicate the situation.

    “I would like to warn against any attempt to bolster the capabilities of Libyan militias based on the assumption that, if equipped, they will fight ISIS in Sirte," he said, adding that these militias are the same ones that withdrew from battling IS in Sirte once before. "Such an attempt would [would only lead to] more complications of the Libyan crisis.”

    President Barack Obama has backed the idea, saying “our strong preference, as has always been the case, is to train Libyans to fight."

    "There’s a whole bunch of constituencies who are hardened fighters and don’t ascribe to ISIS or their perverted ideology,"  he said. "But they have to be organized and can’t be fighting each other.”

    Martin Kobler, head of the U.N. Support Mission in Libya, warned last week that if IS militants continue to exploit Libya's political and security vacuum, they could expand to neighboring countries.

    “It is very important to limit the expansion of the Islamic State because this adds to the already difficult situation; they are expanding to the East, to the West but also to the South,” Kobler told the U.N. Security Council, adding that the IS organization has bridgeheads in Niger and Chad. Should those IS militants team up with sympathizers in those neighboring countries, "it would be very difficult to redress.”

    Intelligence officials say the organization’s immediate goal is to carve out a new caliphate in Libya.

    The U.S. plans to defeat IS in Libya currently depend on persuading parliamentarians to end their divisions to create a government.

    James Clapper, U.S. Director of National Intelligence, explained the crucial need for a unity government in Libya.

    “We would like nothing better than to have a government in place in Libya whom we could work with and from whom we would gain consent for engaging militarily in Libya.”

    You May Like

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Who Are US Allies in Fight Against Islamic State?

    There is little but opportunism keeping coalition together analysts warn — SDFs Arab militias are not united even among themselves, frequently squabble and don’t share Kurds' vision for post-Assad Syria

    Learning Foreign Language Helps US Soldiers Bridge Culture Gap

    Effective interaction with local populations part of everyday curriculum at Monterey, California, Defense Language Institute

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Bill Webb
    March 12, 2016 3:58 PM
    Arming militias in the Middle East doesn't seem to work out very well. They all seem to be willing to kill anybody else depending on who is paying the most and who gets to controls the oil revenue. Now I hear they're mixing in Columbian mercenaries. Everybody wants a piece of the action.

    by: qw from: Libya
    March 12, 2016 4:51 AM
    Even if a coalition can be formed and can eventually achieve victory against ISIS, what will happen after that? Similar to what happened after toppling Gaddafi, the "components" of the coalition will fight each other because they have very little in common apart from the eliminated enemy, and because of the lack of clear plans for what should happen after achieving victory.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora