Obama’s Libya Fiasco

Exclusive: With Libya’s bloody “regime change” in 2011, the Obama administration and its European allies opened the door to anarchy and now the emergence of another Islamic State terror affiliate, but chaos and indecision continue to dominate the West’s reaction to the crisis, says Andrés Cala.

By Andrés Cala

U.S. Marines are expanding the U.S. military presence in Spain with eyes set on Libya’s escalating three-way civil war, which threatens to become a Syrian-like quagmire on Europe’s doorstep, an unintended consequence of the 2011 U.S.-European-led “regime change” that overthrew and killed longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

While there’s little chance for now that the Marines will get entangled in yet another military adventure, America’s European allies are fumbling the Libyan crisis, allowing the Islamic State (Daesh, ISIS, ISIL or whatever you call it) to exploit a power vacuum, though still far from taking over.

President Barack Obama at the White House with National Security Adviser Susan Rice and Samantha Power (right), his U.N. ambassador. (Photo credit: Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama at the White House with National Security Adviser Susan Rice and Samantha Power (right), his U.N. ambassador. (Photo credit: Pete Souza)

The agreement, signed this week and awaiting only ratification from Spain’s Parliament, will make the Morón de la Frontera air base in southern Spain into a permanent base of operations against jihadists in North Africa, covering not just Libya but also Mali, Tunisia and Algeria. Troops stationed there will swell from the 850 currently there under temporary agreements to 2,200, plus 500 civilians. The agreement also involves basing 26 aircraft.

Morón will house a forward-operating base with a potent armory and fast-reaction special-op teams to carry out elite counter-terrorism operations, like the one in 2013 when American forces captured an accused Libyan terrorist for his role in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Or the 2014 capture of the alleged mastermind of the 2012 attack in Benghazi that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. diplomatic personnel.

And perhaps as a prelude to what is to come, there was the stealth air assault earlier this week in Libya (the first American one since the 2011 NATO campaign) that targeted Mokhtar Belmoktar, the elusive Algerian Al Qaeda leader who led the attack on an Algerian gas plant in 2013 that left 38 hostages dead, including three Americans. (His death is not confirmed and Al Qaeda’s branch in northern Africa denied that Belmoktar is dead.)

To be sure, the U.S. deal with Spain is not a strategic shift, but rather a military acknowledgement that Europe may not be able to deal with the Libyan chaos. The Islamic State franchise already controls coastal territory and is now targeting Misrata, the third largest city.

The threat is real — and individual countries like Italy have called for a more active military role. The problem is that NATO is divided. And, while the Islamic State menace is still nascent, Libya’s strategic position just a few hundred miles south of Sicily represents a danger to Europe, underscored by recent attempts of migrants to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean Sea from Libya.

The Libyan conflict is looking like the early stages of the Iraqi conflict after longtime dictator Saddam Hussein was ousted and killed, unleashing pent-up hostilities among competing tribes, ethnic groups and political factions. There are similarities, too, with the Syrian civil war in which U.S. Arab allies and Turkey have supported the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad.

In Libya, there are two governments operating, each with their own foreign support. In the east, based in Tobruk on a cruise ship, is the “Dignity” government, which most European countries and the Saudi-Egyptian alliance endorse. The Tobruk government is backed by an authoritarian and volatile general, Khalifa Haftar.

In the west, based in the capital Tripoli, is a moderate Islamist coalition under the “Libya Dawn” banner, backed by Qatar and Turkey. Though Muslim Brotherhood-based, the coalition is mostly allied warring clans that mistrust their eastern rivals. The U.K. and the U.S. officially remain on the sidelines, supporting United Nations negotiations aimed at unifying the Tripoli and Tobruk factions.

The civil war and military stalemate has so far thwarted all attempts to build a reconciliation government, a prerequisite to combat gains by ISIS and other radical militants, including Al Qaeda. The UN-set deadline expired this week with no signs of a breakthrough, basically because most European countries continue to support the eastern bloc despite its fragile political position.

The latest UN-pitched deal favors the Tripoli faction, but it has been rejected by the Tobruk faction. In essence, each warring side demands to have a commanding role in any future national unity government, while rejecting any prominent role for the other.

Sound familiar? Rival political factions unable to resolve their differences while extremists Al Qaeda and the Islamic State gain strength and consolidate territory. This was the pattern in Iraq and Syria and now Libya, where the ISIS franchise is bulking up in Sirte, Gaddafi’s hometown, smack in the center of the two other sides.

ISIS is still far from posing a serious threat, but some of the militants are battle-hardened from the conflicts in Iraq and Syria. ISIS is also slowly winning over support from local militants, although still lacking the necessary economic muscle, a situation that could soon change.

ISIS already controls vital water and power supply lines and is targeting oil facilities to the east. Strategically, however, ISIS is looking west on Misrata, the last bastion before ISIS can target Tripoli. The ISIS attacks are already straining the front lines of the “Libya Dawn” coalition.

The UN Security Council is alarmed and is pressing the two political factions in Tripoli and Tobruk urging both sides in Libya to cooperate and compromise, but that doesn’t change the situation on the ground. Europe is divided as is the Arab world and Turkey, creating more space for ISIS to put down roots and grow.

By compounding Europe’s already serious immigration crisis, Libyan instability is urgent for Europe. There are reportedly between 500,000 and 1 million migrants waiting to cross from the anarchic country, especially to Italy. Gaddafi, in fact, warned Europe not to depose him because the disorder could create fertile ground for both Islamic extremism and an immigration crisis.

Besides flooding Europe with immigrants, ISIS could transform Libya into a training hub, bordering Egypt and Tunisia, which is even closer to Italy. Then what? Which is why President Barack Obama is increasingly alarmed at the situation.

As Europe and NATO dither, the U.S. is bolstering its military presence through bilateral partnerships, not just in Spain but also Italy. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin Dempsey said it bluntly last week speaking at a Naples Navy base:

“The truth is, in our line of work, the very last thing we want to do is play a home game. We really want to play an away game and we need teammates to do it. We need to be forward. And we need to be sure that as conflict approaches and conflict will approach we have a shot at shaping it before we’re in it.”

Obama’s goal is not to get deeply involved in the Libyan civil war, again. His acquiescence in 2011 to demands from then-National Security Council aide Samantha Power and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to join in the overthrow of Gaddafi was a major factor in creating the Libyan chaos in the first place.

However, after Obama leaves office, the next president whether Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush or some other contender might opt to side with Saudi Arabia and Egypt against the “Libya Dawn” bloc in Tripoli, radicalizing Libya’s more moderate Islamists and driving many into the arms to ISIS.

The risk of a full collapse of Libya is real with Europe seemingly unable to get its act together and Obama failing to act with the necessary urgency. As with so many other foreign policy issues, Obama seems indecisive, unwilling to control his administration’s hardliners and hoping for a consensus that never comes. In the meantime, the U.S. military is making preparations for a military scenario.

And, while it may be better for the U.S. to play away games than home games, Europe does not have that luxury because Libya is getting very close to home for Europe.

Andrés Cala is an award-winning Colombian journalist, columnist and analyst specializing in geopolitics and energy. He is the lead author of America’s Blind Spot: Chávez, Energy, and US Security.

31 comments for “Obama’s Libya Fiasco

  1. Skip Edwards
    June 28, 2015 at 15:14

    The article’s statement above, “Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush or whoever becomes our next President,” is part and parcel with what is wrong with our government today. What are we becoming; a Nation of Dynasty’s? We have had the same families in office and a great many of the same revolving door staffers for how many years now? Are we headed full circle back to the monarchy from which we, the people, once escaped? Our elections are a shameful disgrace with candidates hand picked by a system of wealth which no one outside the inner circle can hope to compete. And if that doesn’t work we have the inner circle controlling the Supreme Court to decide elections, or a hacked computer voting system which anyone still on their feet and thinking does not trust. Democracy? In whose definition does that word reside? I recently asked a good friend of mine, an attorney, who many of us thought would some day run for governor of our state why he never ran that office here is a paraphrase of his answer. “Why should I do that to myself when it easier to own the Governor.” While I laughed off his comment then, I have come to realize that truer words were never spoken!

  2. Zachary Smith
    June 21, 2015 at 00:16

    Obama’s Libya Fiasco

    This isn’t quite fair. It’s a fact that BHO was the figurehead and probably ringleader, but Hillary was in it up to her ears. That involvement alone totally disqualifies the warmongering ***** from the White House. (And she’s got plenty of other baggage as well.)

    The two of them had a lot of help. At the wiki I copied this list:

    United Kingdom
    United Arab Emirates

    Now what happened in Libya was monstrous. But that’s not the part which bothers me. It’s the gross stupidity of all those who got involved.

    Once upon a time the inclusion of Sweden and Canda would have amazed me. But these two countries seem to have devolved into electing knuckle-draggers. And as I said, incompetent/stupid ones.

  3. Marooned
    June 20, 2015 at 20:25

    Isn’t there a huge difference between a migrant and a refugee?

    Migrants are people who voluntarily decide to relocate in order to find work or better living conditions.

    Refugees are people forced to flee for their lives as a direct result of wars and natural disasters.

  4. paul wichmann
    June 20, 2015 at 06:02

    Before I even read the article I must comment on the preface.
    For a good few years I’m birchin’ about our carefree introduction chaos into the Middle East in particular, and the world, as opportunities arise. How do we possibly benefit, or according to our ambitions, derive anything from chaos.
    Now, the by wording of the preface I am struck that the chaos is blowing back – not only the effects / consequences of chaos, but chaos itself.
    We’re mad. And yet we keep on.

    • Mark
      June 20, 2015 at 07:44

      We can only be recognized as “mad” by people that are sane.

      Our culture is sick as we deny the truth while embracing lies and perverted logic to “justify” our war crimes.

  5. sharon lynch
    June 19, 2015 at 20:28

    While the US may be preparing to be prepared for military action in North Africa from Spain, your analysis would be more credible if it included current information in it about Libya. Most glaringly, the democratically elected Libyan House of Representatives does not meet on a ship and never did. An error like this makes me question your entire thesis.

    • John
      June 19, 2015 at 23:08

      Wikipedia says it does. Of course, you’re using “democratically elected” in reference to Libya, so I’m not sure if I should bother arguing.

  6. F. G. Sanford
    June 19, 2015 at 15:58

    Naive indeed. the article states that the current situation “…represents a danger to Europe, underscored by recent attempts of migrants to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean Sea from Libya.” Attempts my foot. They’re already arriving by the thousands. Some have already managed to reach the French border at Ventimiglia, where they’re camping anywhere they can. Please check out Deena Stryker’s recent articles at OPEDNEWS, and my June 15 comment under the Samantha Power article. The Prime Minister of the ‘host nation’ is facing an internal crisis of epic proportions, which is why Dempsey was in Naples. Hostility is brewing all over Europe due to xenophobic right wing objections. Other European nations are unwilling to accept refugees or share the burden. As a result, the Prime Minister has threatened to grant these people resident alien status – which in turn legally allows them the right to travel anywhere in the EU. Many logically assume that among these refugees, there must be some clandestine terrorists. Benghazi may or may not have been what it appeared to be. The strategic outcome under other circumstances might have warranted Articles of Impeachment. But as the author states, “In the meantime, the U.S. military is making preparations for a military scenario.” The Let’s hope the scenario they have in mind isn’t “Seven Days in May”.

    • dahoit
      June 19, 2015 at 18:55

      A problem(boat people)where the NYTs says why ? Sheesh.
      The reason we keep doing the same insanity time after time is because the MSM wishes it so,or it wouldn’t happen.They set the parameters,and the talking points,screw the American public

    • Mark
      June 19, 2015 at 19:02

      Europe, having followed along with the US empire’s ME policies designed by Israel and to suit Israel, is paying for their decision to back the numerous war crimes committed by the US empire as Israel’s proxy.

      Anytime so many lies and deceitful behaviors are required to rule the day, it seems sure there is no justice — if actions were just it wouldn’t have been necessary to lie — and in this monumental case it amounts to chaos and death that would not be happening without the original war crimes having been committed.

      By definition, poetic justice and Karma seem to be a factor to some degree as this all plays out.

      • paul wichmann
        June 20, 2015 at 06:11

        “Poetic justice and Karma” indeed.
        Except it fails to fall, in due measure, upon those particularly responsible.

        And it’s good as word, or better, that our contrivances (manipulation and lies included) come at a price… but again, we aren’t the ones paying.

    • dahoit
      June 19, 2015 at 19:02

      A problem(boat people)where the NYTs says why? Sheesh.
      The reason we keep doing the same insanity time after time is because the MSM wishes it so,or it wouldn’t happen.They set the parameters,and frame the talking points,screw the American public,from 9-11 to Iraq to the present, catastrophe after catastrophe,and it continues with the MSMs approval.

    • Abe
      June 21, 2015 at 16:05

      Israel will be happy to coach Europe about how to defend the border of Western Civilization:
      Step 1: Launch a military assault.
      Step 2: Create a refugee crisis.
      Step 3: Build a fence.
      Ethnically cleanse, rinse off blood, and repeat.

  7. David Sheridan
    June 19, 2015 at 15:23

    Libya did not have a western controlled central bank. Now they do. Victory!

  8. Martin Katchen
    June 19, 2015 at 14:38

    We just may be looking at the issue that may dominate the 2016 Election. Libya is likely to heat up into a full blown crisis right during the Primary season. Hillary Clinton is most vulnerable on Libya because she pushed for the intervention to overthrow Gaddafi. She is vulnerable to both Jim Webb and Bernie Sanders in the primaries and if she makes it to the general election, to the Republicans. More than any other issue, Libya is the issue that could be the perfect storm against Hillary’s candidacy.

  9. Abe
    June 19, 2015 at 14:10

    What has become clear is that the US and its allies, in their unending quest for regime change in Syria, have been overtly supporting extremist elements that have now coalesced to form a global terror threat in ISIS, Nusra, and Al Qaeda.

    But of course, this is nothing new, as the Belhadj episode in Libya demonstrates unequivocally. The man who was once Al Qaeda, then became a “moderate” and “our man in Tripoli,” has now become the leader of the ISIS threat in Libya. So too have “our friends” become our enemies in Syria. None of this should surprise anyone.

    But perhaps John McCain would like to answer some questions about his long-standing connections with Belhadj and the “moderates” in Syria. Would Obama like to explain why his “humanitarian intervention” in Libya has become a humanitarian nightmare for that country, and indeed the whole region? Would the CIA, which has been extensively involved in all of these operations, like to come clean about just who they’ve been supporting and what role they’ve played in fomenting this chaos?

    I doubt any such questions will ever be asked by anyone in the corporate media. Just as I doubt any answers will ever be furnished by those in Washington whose decisions have created this catastrophe. So, it is for us outside the corporate propaganda matrix to demand answers, and to never let the establishment suppress our voices…or the truth.

    Washington’s Al Qaeda Ally Now Leading ISIS in Libya
    By Eric Draitser

  10. Abe
    June 19, 2015 at 14:07

    One of ISIS’ current leaders in Libya is Abdelhakim Belhadj, the “Arab Afghan”, one of the leaders of the “Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG)” This contemporary jihadist figure has a long-standing relationship with US intelligence agencies. Belhadj coordinates the activities of the Islamic State training centres in the eastern part of Libya around the city of Derna.

    A previous active collaborator with al-Qaeda, Belhadj repeatedly boasted about the killing of US troops in Afghanistan in video records. However he later became a “model insurgent” seeking to topple Gaddafi. Led by the division of the “Libyan Islamic Fighting Group” (formed in 1995 with the goal of overthrowing Gaddafi), attacked the Bab al-Azizia district in central Tripoli, where a military base, a complex of government offices and the residence and bunker of Muammar Gaddafi were located.

    The USA and its NATO allies called Belhadj a “freedom fighter” in 2011 who courageously led his supporters in the victory against the “despotic Gaddafi”. Reputable western publications note that “Belhadj served the cause of the United States so well in Libya that he even received an award from Senator John McCain“, who called Belhadj and his followers heroes.

    The episode with Belhadj in Libya demonstrates its “sort of evolution as a result of changes in campaigns of foreign players in the solution of its geostrategic objectives. The “LIFG militant”, a “moderate”, “their man in Tripoli” is now one of the ISIS leaders in Libya.

    The United States have been and continue to be promoters of extremist militants from Libya, Syria and beyond, and all the talk about “moderate rebels” is just rhetoric, designed to “deceive the public.” Washington is providing assistance to those forces that meet their interests, regardless of their ideological affiliation.

    Controlled ISIS military training camps in the vicinity of Derna continue to act as the main supplier of the supporters of “pure Islam” in the region. It can be argued with high probability that these training structures are controlled by intelligence services of the foreign states.

    Western policy in support of “moderate insurgents” is nothing but a PR campaign. The myth of “moderate insurgents”, the example with Belhadj shouldn’t be reviewed in a vacuum. For more than three years Washington has actively supported the so-called moderate insurgents in Syria. The program in which terrorist groups such as the Al-Faruq Brigade and the Khazm Brigade, Liwa al-Qusair and Liwa al-Turkoman participated in at different times, later along with many other Islamists organisations and also some factions of the Free Syrian Army entered in the Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS respectively, adding to the arsenal of modern weapons supplied to them earlier by Washington to overthrow the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

    Activities of ISIS in Libya
    By Dmitry Nechitaylo

  11. Abe
    June 19, 2015 at 14:03

    The warplanes of the US-supported Libyan regime that has replaced the Jamahiriya began bombing Libyan citizens in 2014 as battles for control of Tripoli raged. The US, European Union, and NATO have said nothing about this whereas in 2011 they started a bombing campaign and war on the basis of false accusations the Jamahiriya government was doing exactly this. The deceit of these players is more than evident.

    Libya Then and Now: An Overview of NATO’s Handiwork
    By Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

  12. Ron
    June 19, 2015 at 12:11

    It just keeps getting worse. US meddling in everything always backfires. Trillion dollars in Afghan/Iraq war made the who area worse off and American investors filthy rich. It is all about money; not peace, not justice, not freedom, not democracy. Only making as much money anyway possible for the Money Mafia.

    666 UNITED STATES DOLLAR is the ‘number of the name of a man’ RONALD WILSON REAGAN, the dead Antichrist. He is dead and not what people expect of the Antichrist – some sort of omnipotent dictator who destroys the world. The ‘Antichrist’ is only a sign of the ‘times’. The ‘fourth seal; Behold a pale horse’. Look in the mirror paleface to see the ‘horse’ that the ‘beast’ rides.

    go to my details section to read more at https://www.facebook.com/ron.linker.1/about?section=bio&pnref=about

    • dick Chicanery
      June 19, 2015 at 15:33

      reagan (messiah), Nietzschean pale imitator ayn rand (holy spirit), friedman (god). Or some such variant. They are all yentas.

  13. dahoit
    June 19, 2015 at 12:02

    I think this writer is naive,as it is AlCIAda, AlnUSrA,and IsUS,and all this crap is Zionist inspired and carried out by US traitors.

    • June 19, 2015 at 12:59

      Dahoit you are making a good point. It was the goal; detroyed the whole Libya infrastructure, privatize everything by foreign banks, stole Libya natural resources, and course, change regime by a puppet Western one. Kaddafi, was a great leader, and the country was enjoying a good life style, free college tuition, free health care, affordable house, and more social programs that people of libya was enjoying but that USA do not like because it was a bad example that American people could envy. American people love to play with words and use as a tool to support its war propagand which is echo for the mainstream media even such call “liberals” The American media even call elected democratically leaders “dictators”, as it was the case the elected Chilean president Salvador Allende, Morse, yukanovich and others. But American mainstremedia always refers to dictator Pinochet as General Pinochet! or General Somoza a dictator in Nicaragua and USA ally.

      • zman
        June 19, 2015 at 13:56

        Your comment is pretty much right on. Dahoit is completely correct in calling these criminals traitors. They(Corpgov)are not traitors just to the apathetic US voters, but to the entire world. Yes, the writer is naive if he truly thinks that the chaotic outcome of attacking Libya is/was unintended. This bunch of corporate blood suckers (and I mean all of them, worldwide) rely on these type of conditions to cement their control by paying the right henchmen to bring control of resources for their enrichment. Only those who are aware of their methods(used for the last 110 years at least in the Americas)see this for what it is:Criminal Capitalism using propaganda, subjugation and murder, made possible by the US military and it’s cronies(NATO,Israel,Saudi). Some can even see the end game…NWO.

        • TheAZCowBoy
          June 19, 2015 at 17:37

          Well, it seems the UNITED SNAKES (US/Israel/NATO) have their ‘tit-in-the-wringer’ once more (still?) – but, now have added Ukraine, Georgia, Crimea and the North/South China sea to their ‘woes.’

          Let us pray that the Russian/Chinese ‘anti-terrorist’ organization will soon have these ‘hoodlums’ under their control.

          To be continued…..

    • Mark
      June 19, 2015 at 18:39

      It all falls under the aegis of Israel’s ‘Yinon Plan’ which is to keep the Arab/Muslim factions fighting amongst themselves (1) so Israel can go around and pick up the broken pieces and (2) this gives Israel’s war crimes a back seat to the atrocities the Arabs are committing against each other — except that excuse doesn’t fly as Israel’s crimes remain crimes and it was Israel’s sinister war crime plans, enacted by the US on behalf of Israel, that brought all of this about…

      Anyone not familiar might want to search: ‘Yinon plan’, ‘Wolfowitz Doctrine’ and PNAC ‘New Strategy for Securing the Realm’.

      • Peter Loeb
        June 20, 2015 at 05:45


        I agree with “Mark” above. The US’s “our Israeli allies”
        are hard at work distracting world attention from the
        many crimes they have committed since the beginning
        of the Zionist project and which they keep committing daily.

        Meanwhile Israel’s patron, the US, continues to block
        investigations into these crimes in the UN, the
        consideration of Israeli crimes against children
        by the UN, the establishment of a Mideast Nuclear
        Free Zone.

        The article above does document the building of yet
        another US base—a permanent one— in Spain
        while the US Congress debates (but has not decided)
        on future involvements in war…

        The intense search of gigantic US defense contractors
        (McBoeing, LockMartin, RaeHughes….combinations of
        the largest defense contractors) is a prime factor. The
        many US bases around the world are excellent clients
        for the sale of wepons. Spain is just one more. One can
        be sure they will be contributing to the abovenamed
        contractors’ profits if not to job in America as often
        advertised. (See William Grieder, FORTRESS AMERICA…)

        —Peter Loeb, Boston, MA USA

        • Mark
          June 20, 2015 at 06:00

          Imagine the actual plan — the “sheep” being manipulatively led to slaughter each other — an ingenious sinister and psychopathic plan to serve the selfish interests of a relatively very few individuals.

  14. abol
    June 19, 2015 at 11:27

    As they say money is in war not peace
    1) Iran removed the shah
    3) Iraq
    5)Syria they do not care how man get killed or displaced

  15. W. R. Knight
    June 19, 2015 at 10:58

    Anarchy will continue to reign in Libya until a new dictator establishes power over everyone else. Then he will go about slaughtering all his real and perceived enemies until he has total control. That’s the way it works in that part of the world.

    We go into places like that, kill a monster and create anarchy only to have another monster take its place — so we can go in and kill that monster later. It’s like the game “pop-a-mole”, only it’s costing us our entire national wealth.

    As the old song goes, “When will they ever learn”?

    • TheAZCowBoy
      June 19, 2015 at 17:34

      Seems the UNITED SNAKES (US/Israel/NATO) have their ‘tit-in-the-wringer’ once more (still?) – but, now have added Ukraine, Georgia, Crimea and the North/South China sea to their ‘woes.’

      Let us pray that the Russian/Chinese ‘anti-terrorist’ organization will soon have these ‘hoodlums’ under their control.

      To be continued…..

  16. June 19, 2015 at 10:34


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