News / Middle East

    Libya's North African Neighbors Brace for Any Western Strikes

    A general view of a trench, that forms part of a barrier along the frontier with Libya, is seen in Sabkeht Alyun, Tunisia February 6, 2016.
    A general view of a trench, that forms part of a barrier along the frontier with Libya, is seen in Sabkeht Alyun, Tunisia February 6, 2016.
    Reuters

    Libya's neighbors are again preparing for possible Western intervention in Libya, tightening border security and sending diplomatic warnings about
    the risk from hurried action against Islamic State that could force thousands refugees to flee.

    As Islamic State has expanded in Libya — taking over the city of Sirte and attacking oil ports — so too have calls increased for a swift Western response to stop the group establishing a base outside its Iraq and Syria territory.

    For Tunisia, Egypt and Algeria, sharing borders with Libya was already a security challenge as the country slipped into war between rival factions and allowed Islamic State to thrive five years after NATO strikes helped defeat Moammar Gadhafi.

    Exactly what Western intervention is possible is still under discussion. But President Barack Obama has ordered security advisers to look to halt Islamic State, and U.S. officials say airstrikes and special forces operations are options.

    Italy's defense minister has said the West can not afford to let spring come and go without intervening, though most officials say they are pushing for a united Libya government first to ask for help on the ground.

    North African officials back international attempts to bring Libya's factions together, but they worry they will pay the price in instability, refugees and militant counter attacks if an intervention happens without a government on the ground.

    "Those countries who are envisaging a military intervention in Libya should before anything take into consideration the interests of the neighboring countries," Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi said.

    Tunisia's parliament speaker travels this week to Brussels to express the country's concerns over Western military action to his counterparts in the European Parliament.

    In the years since Gadhafi fell in 2011, Libya has slipped deeper into chaos with two rival governments each backed by competing factions of former rebel brigades. A U.N.-backed government of national accord is trying to win support, but is still awaiting parliamentary approval, and has yet to establish itself in the capital Tripoli.

    Western officials and diplomats say airstrikes, special forces operations are possible as well as an Italian-led "security stabilization" plan of training and advising.

    U.S. and European officials insist Libyans must invite help through a united government, but say they may still carry out unilateral action if needed. The United States and its allies are already carrying out air strikes against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

    Political delays in Libya are testing patience, however, and worrying North African governments.

    "The people who wanted to first form a government, are now the same people in a hurry for intervention," one North African diplomat said. "You need a unified action. If you are just planning airstrikes, it won't get the results."

    Fallout and preparation

    Tunisia and Egypt face the most risk from Libya's crisis. Last year, Tunisian jihadists who trained in Libyan camps carried out two major attacks on foreign tourists in Tunisia.

    More than 3,000 Tunisians have left to fight with Islamic State and other militant groups in Iraq and Syria, but Tunisian security sources say they believe many are returning to Libya.

    Along the Libyan frontier, Tunisian authorities have built a 200-km (125-mile) barrier. Hospitals in Gafsa, Tataouine, Mednine and Gabes are prepared to receive wounded, and authorities have stockpiled supplies, officials say.

    "These Tunisian fighters left here illegally and they know ways to cross back," a Tunisian security source said. "We are vigilant for when they try to escape here if the coalition attacks on Islamic State start."

    Egypt has long urged the international community to help fight Islamist militancy in Libya. But Cairo has also been more circumspect about a full-blown Western military intervention.

    Over the past 18 months, Egypt has ramped up border security and aerial surveillance and also carried out airstrikes itself on Libyan militants. It has also relied on Bedouins whose familial links allow them to act lookouts on the border.

    "This is a Libyan decision that no one should interfere with," Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. "We hope that the Libyan government and the Libyan army ...  will come out with something that will exclude the possibilities of
    intervention."

    With its own bloody history from a war with armed Islamists in 1990s, Algeria has been a key partner in the Western campaign against Islamist militancy in the Sahel, but it is also keen to maintain its traditional policy of non-interference.

    Algerian border security was already tight since Islamist fighters crossed over from Libya to help in a 2013 attack on Algeria's In Amenas gas field, where 40 oil workers were killed.

    Last month, Algerian forces arrested seven Libyan militants near the border close to In Amenas, and the army frequently stops weapons smuggled from Libya. Citing security concerns, Algeria last month also suspended flights to Libya.

    "A major war in Libya would have a negative impact, more refugees and security risks," said Smail Djouhri, an ex-colonel and lecturer in security at Algiers University. "Less Daesh in the region is also good news. A blow to them reduces their recruitment in North Africa."

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora