What makes one country more important than another? That's a crucial question to ask when it comes to Libya. The United States is now prioritizing the fight against ISIS through airstrikes over Iraq and Syria. But what about the country that we were so focused on, just three years ago? Libyan dictator Muammar el-Qaddafi might be dead, but the nation is still enmeshed in violence and instability. Democracy has not taken hold of Libya, as Obama once hoped. Much more likely is that Islamist militants will seize control of the country they've been fighting government-backed forces for.
Two weeks ago yesterday, those forces launched a campaign to liberate Benghazi from Islamist militants. Thus far over 50 people have been killed in the process. The so-called five-month long "Operation Dignity" and the recently launched "Operation Benghazi" have both been led by former Libyan general Khalifa Haftar who, for years, has flip-flopped between working with dictators like Qaddafi and fighting against them. The Libyan government has only half-heartedly supported Haftar's efforts, fearful of where his allegiance lies, says Mohamed Eljarh of Foreign Policy.
In fact, "General Haftar's announcement came as an embarrassment to both the Libyan government and the recently elected parliament, which is currently based in the city of Tobruk," Eljarh writes. "Members of parliament I spoke with today declined to endorse Haftar's action and instead opted for vague statements of support for the people Benghazi and the army. It remains unclear if this recent military offensive was authorized by the army's chief of staff and if there was any coordination between him and Haftar."
So who is helping the people of Benghazi? Two weeks ago, the presidents of Egypt and Sudan agreed to support the Libyan military. But in a joint statement the day before, France, Italy, Germany, the U.K., and the U.S. governments proclaimed that "there is no military solution to the Libyan crisis." That's it? How much more can this country endure on its own? And why should Libya fend for itself when Iraq and Syria are receiving help from the United States and its allies?
While the Department of Defense said last year that they were committed to sending as many as 8,000 military trainers to Libya, they have still not acted on that plan, apparently reluctant to put any members of the American military at risk.
The U.S. and its partners escalated their airstrikes against ISIS this past weekend, conducting 22 strikes within a 24-hour period. All the while, they ignore Islamic extremists in Libya, leaving the fight to a morally suspect ex-general who charges ahead, unauthorized by the nation's infant government. Why are Iraq and Syria's Islamist militants more important than Libya's? And shouldn't the country with the world's most powerful military split its resources and at least try to fight for the future of all three nations?