Nearly five years after the Libyan city of Sirte was left in ruins following hundreds of NATO bombing raids and heavy fighting in the 2011 campaign to oust Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, the Pentagon announced a major new US military escalation on 1 August against Daesh (Isis/Isil) terrorists who have reportedly made Sirte their prime Libyan stronghold.
Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said that US airstrikes were already underway in the coastal city of Sirte at the request of the Libyan government, and he further raised eyebrows among the press corps by adding that the air campaign did not have “an end point at this particular moment in time”.
Cook cited the controversial 15-year-old Congressional Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) resolution passed just after 9/11 when questioned about the legality of the airstrikes.
The ‘Libyan government’ Cook mentioned was a reference to the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) – an interim government formed in Tunisia which had its first formal meeting in January 2016. While the GNA is one of at least three governments currently vying for power in Libya, it is the only assembly recognised by the United Nations.
The GNA was not elected democratically, and its members entered Tripoli by boat in late March in response to the increasing chaos of post-Gaddafi Libya and threats of warring militias in the capital. The US Department of Defense further described the overall purpose of the anti-Daesh campaign as follows:
The US stands with the international community in supporting the GNA as it strives to restore stability and security to Libya.
But more and more international analysts have observed that it was NATO’s enactment of UN Resolution 1973, ostensibly to save civilian lives from Gaddafi’s army, that destabilised Libya and turned it into a cauldron of warring factions in the first place.
While news of US military escalation made headlines around the world on 1 August, the presence of western special forces on the ground in Libya went under reported. According to Reuters:
Small teams of Western countries’ special forces have been on the ground in eastern and western Libya for months.
Ironically, it was also five years ago that special forces from NATO member countries were first inserted in Libya to advise anti-Gaddafi rebels. These rebel groups were already being infiltrated by al-Qaida and other jihadi groups at the start of the armed uprising in early 2011, as confirmed by WikiLeaks:
Hillary Emails show UK, French, Egyptian special forces were secretly in Libya providing arms to "protestors" https://t.co/SyRhaYeLGI
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) March 25, 2016
Sirte – the fast, flourishing, modern city once favored by Gaddafi – is now ground zero for what the Pentagon itself says could be its next seemingly endless war.
See rare footage of Sirte below, where the green flags of Gaddafi loyalists continued to fly in the midst of 2011 fighting:
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Featured Image via US Dept. of Defense/Flickr