In an interview with Radio France Internationale broadcast today, Nigerien Interior Minister suggested that France and the US should consider an intervention into Libya to address terrorism in that country’s southern region. Massoudou Hassoumi said southern Libya had become “an incubator for terrorist groups” and that the countries who supported the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi should “provide an after-sales service.”
Since the ouster and execution of Gadhafi in 2011, Libya has suffered from chronic instability as various militias continue to operate with impunity. The US, France, and other countries provided materiel support to various armed opposition factions, along with a sustained air campaign that allowed them to take control of the country. The new central government has largely failed in its attempts to get these factions under control. For instance, four Egyptian diplomats were abducted last week in what was said to be a reprisal for government action against a prominent militia leader.
Terrorism is indeed a growing threat in Libya. The US Department of State designated two groups in Libya as both Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) and Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT) last month. Militant groups have also looted Libya for weapons, with man-portable surface-to-air missiles being among the weapons thought to have been taken. Efforts to train Libya’s national security forces to respond to these threats are scheduled to begin this year.
The potential threats posed by absence of government control in Libya is well known. Tuareg insurgents in Mali were originally located in Libya and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb have also used Libyan territory as a staging ground for attacks in neighboring countries. Niger has already been involved in increasing international precense to counter such activities in the region. Both the US and France conduct drone reconnaissance operations from the country.
However, the US so far has declined to deploy significant numbers of troops to the region, preferring to support other countries and otherwise rely on unmanned aerial vehicles and special operations forces to conduct raids on isolated targets. France is also finding its military strained by interventions in Africa, despite having a clear interest in expanding its ability to respond to threats on the continent. Its primary focus has shifted to Central African Republic, with the hope that other European nations will be able to assist in countries like Mali. The Netherlands recently began deploying peacekeepers to that country, and Germany announced today that it would look to increase its training mission there.