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Libya: waiting for Trump

While UN envoy Martin Kobler is realizing political talks with Libyan factions, waiting for Trump’s first step on the North African front, ISIS and migrant questions remain on Tripoli table.

November 21

A French national has been captured at an Islamic State (IS) training camp and he is held at Benghazi’s Grenada military prison. A video of him was broadcast yesterday by French TV channel M6 but it did not state where he was arrested nor they revealed his name. We know he was of Algerian origin and from the east of France. Questioned by a French reporter, the man said he had been a second-hand car salesman and that he was gone to Libya planning to move on to Syria and join the Nusra Front, the jihadist organisation previously part of Al-Qaeda. He had not intended to join IS. He refused to send a message to his family on the basis that French intelligence will know who he is soon.

November 22

Most migrants in Libya want to remain in the country and do not intend to head for Europe. The revelation came in the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) latest Libya Displacement Tracking Matrix Flow Monitoring Analytical report. Libya remains the main country of intended destination for 56 percent of all 1,946 migrants surveyed, with 17 percent destined for Italy, 7 percent to Germany and 5 percent to France, the report says. The report says 81 to 83 percent of migrants from Egypt, Chad and Sudan surveyed intended to stay in Libya. Only 16 percent of Nigerian migrants intended to stay in Libya while 43 percent intended to travel to Italy, 12 percent to Italy, 12 percent to Germany and the remaining 29 percent to a variety of other countries. The demographic age of migrants surveyed were in their twenties, averaging of 29 and 98 percent were male. Most were from the countries bordering Libya: Niger, Egypt and Sudan. Nigerians were the fourth most represented group making up 10 percent of those surveyed. Economic reasons were given by 88 percent of all respondents as the main factors driving them to leave their countries of origin as well as the main reason determining migrants’ choice of destination. Seventy-four present of respondents said that they had spent over 6 months in Libya.

November 24
On Thursday, Libyan forces resumed their advance against Daesh militants holding out in a few streets in their former stronghold of Sirte, saying they had captured 25 houses and a stash of arms. Backed by US air strikes, the Libyan brigades have reduced the area held by the militants to a small patch of land near Sirte’s Mediterranean seafront after a campaign of more than six months. Lately, they say, they are advancing with more caution in the Ghiza Bahriya district to limit casualties among their own fighters and among any hostages and families still held there. “According to our information there are still civilians including women and children inside,” Mohamed Al Gasri, a spokesman for the brigades, told private TV station Libya’s Channel. “The instructions are not to rush in, in order to limit the damage.” Rida Issa, another spokesman for the brigades, said they had recovered a 106 mm anti-tank gun and a store of ammunition during Thursday’s advance. One of the Misrata-led forces had been killed and three wounded, he said. He said perhaps 70 houses remained under Daesh page6 Centro Studi Roma 3000 – Via Marco Simone, 80 00012 Guidonia Montecelio – Tel. 0039.0694801821 www.roma3000.it control. As of Tuesday, the United States had carried out 420 air strikes in Sirte since Aug.1, according to US Africa Command.

Redazione

Libya: U.S. airstrikes and Haftar issue

Defence/Middle East - Africa di

As requested by Government of National Accord, the U.S. intensified its fight in Libya launching airstrikes in Sirte, ISIS stronghold in Libya. American help is necessary to accelerate GNA advance: “These actions and those we have taken previously will help deny ISIL a safe haven in Libya from which it could attack the United States and our allies,” the Pentagon statement said.

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Previously, Western support was by intelligence and military training, as proved by presence of special forces in Libya since at least March 2016. Now, despite GNA advance in Gulf of Sirt (ISIS troops decreased from 6,000 to 1,000, as reported by Pentagon), American help is necessary to increase its influence in this area. Indeed, if the U.S. (and Italy, through a logistic support) wants to defeat Islamic State because of the war on terrorism, Serraj has at least two reasons: the first one is Libyan security and support to all factions which are fighting against Daesh; the second one concerns Serraj’s connection with Haftar and HoR for GNA legitimacy.

Inevitably, Haftar reaction after the U.S. intervention was not positive. His troops, supporting by Egypt and France (three French soldiers were killed in Libya close to Benghazi), advanced against ISIS positions in past months, especially when GNA was freshly formed. But the U.S. and its allies wants an unified Libya to defeat Daesh and stop migration flows.

If France has an ambivalent position, Italy is the first U.S. ally in the Libyan context. Now, Rome is ready to consider positively a request to use airbases and national airspace, and support the operation, if it is believed that it would lead to a more rapid and effective conclusion of the ongoing action,” Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti said.
Giacomo Pratali

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Libya: with Serraj or Haftar?

Middle East - Africa di

Several influences composed the current Libyan context. The war against Daesh and the possible international military operation on the ground, under Italy leadership as attested by the US Secretary of State John Kerry and the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford, are two geopolitical variables that could intersect in the near future.

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“We have no links with Mr Serraj and the Presidential Council which he leads is not recognised by the parliament (in the east),” Haftar told i-Tele news channel in an interview in Libya. “Daesh does not have the capacity to face the Libyan armed forces, but the battle could take time. ” It’s what Geneal Khalifa Haftar said in an interview on May 20 and confirmed in following ones. So, Serraj’s visit in Egypt, the main Haftar’s sponsor, on May 26 could be determining to a possible coalition between GNA and Tobruk, which are fighting ISIS nearby Sirte.

So, the Libyan context is not going anywhere. Tobruk parliament has not already voted for GNA. On the other hand, on May 17 asked International Community for help Libya by engaging with the legitimate institutions in accordance with the political agreement. While, on May 8, he said that “”It doesn’t make sense that the international community supports our war against terrorism, and forbids us from arming ourselves.”

“We are ready to respond to the Libyan government’s requests for training and equipping the presidential guard and vetted forces from throughout Libya. The government of national accord has voiced its intention to submit appropriate arms embargo exemption requests to the UN Libya sanctions committee to procure necessary lethal arms and materiel to counter UN-designated terrorist groups and to combat Daesh throughout the country. We will fully support these efforts while continuing to reinforce the UN arms embargo,” UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.

Just as Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni, who supposed a military support only after “we will try to reinforce the political accord, to fight against ISIS, including General Haftar, but the full recognition is needed”. While, during the meeting in Rome with GNA Foreign Minister Mohamed Siala, discussed about migration control and “the possibility of reactivating the tools set out in the 2008 friendship pact as soon as possible,” Italian government said in a statement.
Military context
GNA and Misrata militias from the South and the West; Haftar’s troops from the East. The siege of Sirte, ISIS stronghold in Libya, is underway. A military context which is causing two consequences. The first one, Western countries special forces, already on the ground since at least two months, are supervising by both and monitoring Libyan progress and Haftar’s reliability if GNA will fail. The second one, the first ISIS internal divisions caused as reported by Libyan online magazine al Wasat.

So, the next few weeks will be crucial for Libyan destiny. The pressure of United States, United Kingdom and France on Italy for an immediate military operation on the ground will particularly depend from result of war of GNA and Tobruk troops against Islamic State: therefore, General Khalifa Haftar is not still out of running.
Giacomo Pratali

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Libya: is France supporting Haftar?

Politics di

How confirmed in the last weeks, the real Libyan conflict is between GNA and HoR, which didn’t still ratified UN government. Behind this impasse there is General Khalifa Haftar, very well-liked by Egypt and EAU through weapons supply in the war against Islamic State. And, while France partecipated to G5 meeting in Hannover with Germany, Italy, United Kingdom and United States and discussed about Libya crisis, on the other hand Paris is supporting Egypt to extend its sphere of influence on Cyrenaica and its oil well.

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After that workers at the Marsa el-Hariga terminal had refused to load the shipment which should have to export 650,000 barrels of oil on April 22, Libyan crisis is becoming always more complicated. It’s clear that Tobruk government is trying to control oil well. “This had the potential to be a very ugly incident and I am pleased that it has been resolved peacefully without injury to anybody or loss of revenue or damage to the integrity of NOC or the country,” Tripoli-based Chairman Mustafa Sanalla said.

Not only from oil viewpoint, but also from military one. After that Shura Council pushed out Islamic State fighters from Derna, Hafeth al-Dabaa, a spokesman for Derna Mujahideen Shura Council (DMSC), told the BBC that Haftar didn’t freed the city but its warplanes targeted Islamic revolutionaries. And, with LNA, is moving towards Sirte, the Daesh stronghold in Libya.

The Serraj request to support his government to international community especially reguards Haftar. UN support on April 28, when it blocked illicit crude sale towards Malta, could be not enough.

Indeed, Egypt and EAU are directly supporting Tobruk and Haftar. The purpose is to come first to Sirte and defeat Islamic State. Supported by Al Sisi, the General is aiming to become the leader of Libya.

So, French participation to G5 about Libya and the contemporary weapons supply to Egypt are complicating Libyan context. And, above all, the role of Western countries.

Therefore, Libya’s U.N.-backed unity government called on Thursday was necessary to stop all military actions against Islamic State: “In the absence of coordination and unified leadership … the Council expresses its concern that the battle in Sirte against Daesh (Islamic State) will be a confrontation between those armed forces. Accordingly, the Presidential Council, as the supreme commander of army, demands all Libyan military forces wait for it to appoint a joint leadership for the Sirte operation,” the statement said.
Giacomo Pratali

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Libya still without national unity government

BreakingNews @en di

Not even today. After that HoR representatives failed to attend vote for national unity government, also on March 8 UN Peace Deal is still pending.

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Since several weeks, Western countries are waiting for national unity government to intervene in Libya. And while Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi denied a military operation without Libyan approval, today the New York Times reports that the White House has a plan to immediately go in Libya to stop ISIS expansion.

Indeed United States, France and United Kingdom are on the ground since at least one months. So Italy, after the verbal crossfire between Renzi and the US ambassador John R. Philips, must decide soon if it wants to lead international coalition or if it wants to be slipped away.
Giacomo Pratali

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Libya: Rome, two Italian hostages killed

BreakingNews @en/Europe di

“In connection to the circulation of several images of the victims, apparently Westerners, of a shootout in Libya’s Sabratha region, the Farnesina informs that from the images, albeit in the absence of bodies, it could be possible to identify two of the four Italians who worked for the Bonatti construction company and who were kidnapped in July 2015.  More specifically, the images could be of Fausto Piano and Salvatore Failla. The Farnesina has already informed the families. However, despite efforts to verify the news, confirmation thereof is made difficult due to the absence of the bodies ”. On March 3, Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Thursday confirmed that Fausto Piano, 61, and Salvatore Failla, 47, were killed in Libya. While the other two Italian coworker kidnapped last July, Filippo Calcagno and Gino Pollicardo, “are still alive “, as reported by the president of Copasir Marco Minniti.

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News item

On March 3, Fausto Piano and Salvatore Failla were probably killed during a shoot-out near Sabratha between Tripoli’s security forces, led by Fajr Libya, and an ISIS brigade. According to local sources, the two Italians would be hit while they were traveling aboard a jihadist convoy.

Images on web and the statement of Italian government certified their kill. But there are two doubts. The first one is about the kidnapping of July 20, 2015 because the four Bonatti employeers returned to their home not by sea, but by car. An unusual choice seeing that Eni and Bonatti workers generally choose the first option.

The second one is about imprisonment during the following months, when a claim never arrived. Even until late February, local sources excluded ISIS responsibility. But what happened last Wednesday showed the opposite because jihadists used the two Italians as a shield. While men Fajr Libya were not aware that in Daesh convoy were present Fausto Piano and Salvatore Failla.
Giacomo Pratali

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Libya, US: new Iraq on the horizon?

BreakingNews @en di

Yesterday Tobruk parliament once again postponed voting on new government until February 29. Meanwhile, the US and its European partners are thinking about a military intervention without Libyan approval: Islamic State’s stabilization and about 6,000 enlisted were changing Libya in the new Iraq.

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During February, several news about the US, UK and France landing at Libya were been reported by international press. The last one is about France which, as written by Le Monde, should have send about 180 soldiers against Daesh.

Even United States is preparing a military plan. After agreement with Italian government, which allowed US drones to fly out for attacks on Daesh, Barack Obama is pressing not only Libyan factions to ratify national unity government, but also Rome to play an active role in an always more probably military intervention in Libya.

The risk is especially one: repeating the same mistake of 2011. But the hesitation of Libyan House of Representatives could cause a plan B. A scenario which could exclude the Italian leadership in international operation and unpopular with al-Sarraj government and the majority of population. Indeed, they would want a military training and assistance from foreign countries.

If United States and its partners decided to intervene without new government approval, Islamic State could increase its popularity among foreign fighters and Libyan people because the war could become a war between Islam and West.

Beyond these doubts, Obama’s political consultants push to immediately go in Libya, as reported by Washington Post. Indeed, Libya is becoming new Daesh headquarters, where always more jihadists are enlisting them. In this way, it could repeat the same context of Iraq in 2014, when the White House didn’t intervene until the next 18 months and Islamic State strengthened its positions.
Giacomo Pratali

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Libya: what’s the real role of Italy?

Politics di

Syria more than Libya was the main topic during the Rome meeting of the anti-ISIS Small Group on February 2. Summit was held chaired by US Secretary of State John Kerry and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Paolo Gentiloni, the summit was attended by 23 foreign ministers, including the EU Representative Federica Mogherini.

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During the press conference after meeting, Kerry told about a global battle against Daesh in Syria, Iraq and Libya: “This theater of war will be longer, more than a war between two states”. He excluded the possibility of a ground intevention of US armed forces, but ensured logistical and training supports when new Libyan government will approve international military operation. Moreover, Secretary of State remembered that Italy is “one of the most active countries anti-ISIS”.

And Libya? Political impasse to create new government in Tripoli is not only favoring once again
the radicalization of Daesh, but is causing knock-out effects. Risk is only one: Western countries could repeat the same error of 2011 if did not wait for new government approval for military intervention.

As revealed by the Sunday Times, intelligences of the United Kingdom, United States and France would be active at a base near Tobruk, where they are already planning interventions on the ground and the introduction of a permanent headquarters. So, what this possibile UN military intervention really is? A support to local forces? Several bomb raid? Or even a ground intervention?

Last December, writing to his Italian counterpart Roberta Pinotti, US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said: “I hope that Italy will take part in raid against Islamic State. “ Conflicting words compared with Kerry and Gentiloni recent statements.

Ultimately, this summit did not change anything about Libyan crisis. Moreover, this deadlock could relegate Italy to subordinate role during the probably UN military intervention.
Giacomo Pratali

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Libya: agreement in the balance

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Tobruk rejects the Council of Presidency, but does not formally vote on the proposal on 9 October. International Community is waiting for Tripoli response. National unity government hangs in the balance. However, Leon mandate at maturity and Daesh radicalization require a quickly change.

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UN envoy Bernardino Leon buoyancy at the end of favorable negotiations on October 9, in which it was drawn up draft agreement and national unity government designations, contradicts Tobruk Parliament rejection on October 19 of Presidential Council submitted by the United Nations.

Then, not a formal vote against the deal. However, the 153 deputies of the Assembly have sent a powerful message to the United Nations and Tripoli. A discontent consisted of seventy representatives, who are ready, as reported by Libyan Herald, to distance themselves from the Tobruk position.

Now, there is waiting for Tripoli response, even if the premises on October 19, when draft was turned down by GNC head Nuri Abu Sahimin, who has disapproved “formal invitation to New York in the presence of Tobruk Foreign Minister, supported by an illegal parliament since resolved by the Constitutional Court, a Libyan delegate to the UN removed by Congress and Egypt and Emirates Foreign ministers “.

However, Tobruk Parliament’s mandate has just officially expired Monday, October 19 (though it has since been extended). Just as Leon, to whom will succeed the German Martin Kobler and close to the failure of his mission in Libya. And EU military, economical and social plan in support of the national unity government, announced by High Representative Federica Mogherini last October 20, seems unrealistic if Tobruk and Tripoli will not say yes to the United Nations draft.

In addition to the joint statement of several countries in recent days, the reactions of the last hours minimize what happened in Tobruk: “It did not approve nor reject. It was only decided not to submit the proposal to the vote of the Chamber of Representatives “, Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said. While Leon reiterated that “the process goes on. There is no chance for small groups or personalities to hijack this process. The political solution is the only real alternative,” Leon restated.

Next hours are crucial. The several institutional deadlines but, above all, Daesh radicalization in a strategic city as Benghazi demands an urgent political unique solution.

Giacomo Pratali

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