Libya: a race against time

par Hervé Pugi.

While western powers attempt to fight evil in Iraq and Syria with bombs, the Daesh cancer is spreading to Libya. And although still contained, this terrorist tumour calls urgently for an appropriate remedy before the country wastes away further. we’ve gone to meet young libyans.

« It’s obviously getting worse. Daesh is gaining people as well as power. » These are just some of the perceptions gathered by a former journalist who still has all his journalistic instincts intact. Fatim R. says: « Everyone’s worried, the Libyans as well as the foreigners still in our country. No one wants to see their town turned into a new Sirte. Almost 700 families have fled and they are all now living in deep poverty. Despite which, they say it’s the best choice they could have made. »

Nonetheless, the now civil servant wants to set the record straight: « The members of Daesh? They’re not real Islamists, nor can they be seen as partisans of Gaddafi and of his family as it’s sometimes said. They’re mainly foreigners: Sudanese, Tunisians, Yemenis, Nigerians, Ethiopians… There are also Libyans, of course, who follow Islamic State either for money or because they’ve been brainwashed in the mosques of Sirte or Tripoli. »

As for responsibility, his friend Mohamed F. isn’t slow at pointing the finger: « The present conflict between the Tripoli and Tobruk governments » is what has allowed Daesh « to take hold and grow. » All with their own alliances, especially on the Benghazi side, with certain factions of Operation Libya Dawn. A coalition of convenience against a common enemy: The Libyan National Army led by General Haftar. Nonetheless, he believes the postrevolution authorities underestimated the problem when it was just an epiphenomenon: « The government had rejected the very idea of the existence of Daesh on Libyan soil, » says the thirty-year-old irritatedly, « it claimed it was an ‘invention’ of Libya Dawn. A trap to keep its forces far away from Tripoli and to be able to seize the capital. » An error of judgment and show of defiance that all Libyans are paying dearly for today.

Likewise, the countries of the international community involved in the fall of Gaddafi’s regime don’t escape criticism. For Ziad L., a diplomatic agent of a mission, there is no doubt: « The Western powers should have set up a national union government in 2011 underpinned by a powerful military presence on the ground. » This pure nativeborn Tripolitan who works at a diplomatic mission, says loud and clear: « The 2012 elections were a big mistake. The country was just coming out of revolution, instability was rife, we were faced with a multitude of armed groups totally out of control, it wasn’t the right time. » Clearly, the international coalition showed unforgivable casualness in finalizing the Libyan issue. « It should have disarmed the factions, created a powerful armed force and – at least temporarily – ensured Libya’s safety and security » insists this diplomat who for the time being rejects any thought of exile.

We now need to make up for the errors of the past that are still very with us today. Warda S. sees only one solution: « Foreign military intervention, like in 2011. Even if only air strikes, coordinated with major ground operations led by Libyan forces. » Although this nurse by training says she is « not generally convinced this type of thing works, what’s most important is to fight the terrorists. I’m afraid there’s hardly any other solution to achieve stability. » Alarmist or simply realist, she insists: we have to act now… « if it’s not already too late. Fighting terrorism has unfortunately become the priority for Libya. Much more delay and the country will end up collapsing. »

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