Jean-Yves Le Drain, the French Minister of Defence, has admitted that Libya is his “main obsession”, he has revealed the reason why he said this, “relatively few foreign fighters that are present in Libya, they are very present in Syria and Iraq, and not only French citizens, by the way. We think that there is around 10, 12, 15 thousand coming from Europe but also from Tunisia, from Morocco, from Saudi Arabia, from Chechnya, Kazakhstan, even from Australia now. So the day some will come from Syria to Libya they will be 200 miles from the French coast, from the European coast.”
Le Drain believes that the longer there is an absence of a political solution in Libya, the state of the country will deteriorate, it will become a playground for Islamic State affiliates to manifest, and expand their influence. He says that it is the perfect location for terrorists, whether loyal to Islamic State affiliates or other terrorist organisations, this is due to the fact that they will have the ability to infiltrate terrorists into Europe through ferry boats. Libya is located in the north of Africa and is very close to European nations like Malta, this is why the threat is large.
When Le Drain payed a visit to Washington D.C., to have a meeting with the American Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter, Le Drain made many comments at the meeting which was chaired by the German Marshall fund of the United States. He explained to the audience there, that he believed Libya is officially a failed state and that it is no longer functioning, he said that he already issued a warning before the Islamic State affiliates reached Libya. Le Drain says that Libya has been the playground for these terrorists, it was a firearms and drugs bazar for quite some time, and now to make matters worse in Libya, and it is now a terrorist base. Even though Islamic State affiliates are there, France and its allies, who are supported by America’s finances and logistics, have had an effect on the progression of these terrorist groups, he claims that they have been pushed onto “their back foot” for the time being.
If we accept the fact that they are on their back foot, he said that “the terrorists den” (what Le Drain calls Libya) is much larger than the south of Libya today. He explained that, Islamic state has spread around Libya like a disease, Le Drain said that “[IS] which started to be present on the eastern side of Libya, not very far from Tobrok, in and around Derna, where they have a training camp. Well now they took Sirte, they took the airport and they occupy 200 kilometres of Libyan coast and they keep going ahead and spreading.” He claims that the longer the political issue takes longer to solve in Libya the more they will spread.
Le Drain has recognised that there is an internationally recognised government in Tobrok, who already have an army and a parliament set in stone, and can claim legitimacy to govern. The only issue is that other larger cities such as Tripoli and Misrata do not recognise the government in Tobrok as a real government, who has the legitimacy and the mandate to govern. So they fight against each other. Le Drain says that in the absence of an imminent political solution, the only military solution that can be foreseen is an Islamic State one.
Le Drain has stated that the day Islamic state seize control of what he calls a “failed state” and a “terrorist’s den” is the day Islamic State take charge of migrants crossing the Mediterranean from Libya to Europe, he also added “…and then terrorism is going to be strengthened in Europe because there’ll be two new elements for [IS]. First they’ll have more and more financial assets, because of all the taxes that are going to proceed for the crossing of the Mediterranean, and then terrorist infiltration among the migrants. So we are facing, now, a serious situation and the political situation does not exist today and if we do nothing this is exactly what is going to happen.”
The remarks Le Drain makes about Libya being a playground for terrorists is reinforced by the fact that Libya is still divided, there are still two governments, and a place of conflict is the best place for terrorists to grow and prosper. This is evident as the General National Council has announced on Monday that it will begin the process of restructuring its armed forces, they will create 11 brigades which will also include revolutionary groups who took part in the 2011 Libyan revolution which saw the ousting of the dictator Muammar Al-Gaddafi.
The GNC and its government have announced in a statement that the reforms aim to establish an army of at least 5000 strong.
The decision to reconstruct the armed forces came during a decisive week for political relations in Libya, as rival sides still remain in conflict on whether to vote for or against the UN-drafted peace plan for Libya.
The Libya Dawn forces, which had the control of the capital city of Tripoli last year, had recently pulled out of Tripoli to stop the bloodshed and conflict.
On the other hand, there are still battles going on in cities like Benghazi and Darna, and to make matters worse Islamic State affiliates are still scattered around Libya.
The only way to reach political stability in Libya is the dialogue as the more chaotic things get on the ground the more Libya becomes the perfect environment for terrorists to flourish.