Libya is as vulnerable to further inroads by ISIS now as Syria was a year ago. What can the United States and its allies do to stop the hemorrhaging? Many options have been debated, but none look very promising.
The NATO air campaign that helped defeat Qaddafi's regime in Libya has received relatively little mention in public discussion of the ongoing air strikes against ISIS. But the campaign in Libya offers at least five lessons that deserve greater attention today.
President Obama's campaign against ISIS militants marks a notable strategic shift in the conduct of warfare against terrorists and insurgents. It eschews the use of overwhelming force and embraces a light-footprint strategy that relies on precision strikes from U.S. aircraft, clandestine ground units, and local allies.
There are many key questions regarding deployment of U.S. air power to Iraq to halt the progress of the Islamic State. How effective would it be? Would it cause a lot of civilian casualties? Is air power alone enough to achieve U.S. objectives?
The international community's limited approach to post-conflict stabilization of Libya has left the nation struggling and on the brink of civil war. The essential tasks of establishing security, building political and administrative institutions, and restarting the economy were left almost entirely up to Libya's new leaders. No international forces were deployed to keep the peace, in contrast with NATO interventions in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan.
If NATO wants to avoid strategic irrelevance, it needs to give increasing attention to the threats from the Middle East and North Africa region. A southern strategy should draw on recent experience, such as NATO's intervention in Libya and the successful operation in Mali.
A forthcoming book from RAND senior political scientist Christopher S. Chivvis recounts the story of how the United States and its European allies went to war against Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, why they won the war, and what the implications will be for NATO, Europe, and Libya.
Toppling Qaddafi is a carefully researched, highly readable look at the role of the United States and NATO in Libya's war of liberation and its lessons for future military interventions. This book recounts the story of how the United States and its European allies went to war against Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, why they won the war, and what the implications for NATO, Europe, and Libya will be.
If steps are not taken to get control of security, there is little hope for Libya's future. Qaddafi's fateful warning that Libya would become a “Somalia on the Mediterranean” without him could come true. The investment that NATO and its partners made in toppling Qaddafi would then be almost entirely wasted.
The raids that the United States conducted over the weekend in Libya and Somalia could signal a new focus in Washington on capturing terrorist suspects and gathering intelligence rather than relying on drone strikes. RAND experts Linda Robinson, Angel Rabasa, and Seth Jones comment.
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is an amorphous, resilient, and adaptive terrorist organization that has shown extraordinary staying power in the face of counterterrorism operations. The United States should not be the tip of the spear in efforts against AQIM, except in cases involving a direct and imminent threat to the U.S. homeland.
The best way to safeguard U.S. diplomatic missions abroad is to think hard up front about the purpose of the mission and to constantly reassess it in light of changing conditions, writes William Young.
By adopting a laissez-faire policy toward security in Libya after the war, the United States and its allies who helped the Libyan rebels topple Gadhafi share in the responsibility for the country’s current predicament, writes Christopher Chivvis.
Trepidation about boots-on-the-ground engagement has unnecessarily forestalled even small-scale efforts to repair Libya's fractured security environment....Meanwhile, in Syria, the over-learned lessons of Iraq are taking an even more serious toll, writes Christopher Chivvis.
A smaller-scale training mission to help the Libyan government build reliable forces that will answer to the country's elected leadership would do much to help the Libyan state get control over its own territory, writes Christopher Chivvis.
France is in Mali not just to prop up a failing state in French Africa, but because Mali was becoming a magnet for jihadis from around the world and Paris rightly feared the country could become the next Afghanistan—only much closer to Europe, writes Christopher Chivvis.
Despite its role in helping topple Qaddafi, NATO is absent from Libya today. A year after Qaddafi's death, the light-footprint approach adopted for Libya's postwar transition is facing its most serious test.