Special Operations: Italy Has A Change Of Mind

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August 25, 2016: In August 2016 it was revealed that Italy had changed its laws so that it could send several dozen of its special operations troops to Libya to provide training and some unspecified special services to Libyan forces fighting Islamic terrorist. In particular some of the Italian commandos joined the growing force of foreign special operations troops (mainly American, French and British) assisting Libyan forces who are clearing ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) out of the coastal city of Sirte. Italy has been asked to provide this sort of help before and seemed ready to do so in May 2016 but backed away at the last minute because of domestic opposition to getting involved. Since then evidence has been recovered from dead or captured ISIL fighters in Libya that ISIL is not only using Libya as a source of income (by participating in sending illegal migrants to Italy) but has sent some known (in Italy) Islamic terrorists back to Italy to plan attacks. That apparently changed enough minds in Italy to get the law and deployment policies changed.

Between late July and mid-August Libyan forces drove ISIL out of most of Sirte and also captured some ISIL headquarters facilities and lots of ISIL records. These documents confirmed what Italy had already discovered about ISIL plans and operations.

Most other NATO nations were convinced of the threat earlier. In February 2016 France revealed that it had at least fifteen special operations troops in Libya and they had been there since the end of 2015. The French troops were operating from an air base outside the eastern city of Benghazi and were working alongside British and American special operations forces and some other specialists from all three countries. While there were less than 200 foreign troops involved all the Islamic terrorist groups in Libya (and some of the less religious ones) see this presence of foreign troops tantamount to a Western (and non-Moslem) invasion of Libya. Most Libyans don’t care. The air base is controlled by the elected Libyan government that is recognized by the UN and on the verge of getting the majority of armed groups in the country to recognize one government and unite against the violent and unwelcome presence of ISIL.

The Western commandos are mainly training their Libyan counterparts as well as helping to establish a more efficient intelligence network so that Western warplanes can carry out more strikes on ISIL. Few Libyans object to anything that will hurt ISIL. The French admitted that their troops had carried out a few combat missions but nothing was said of how many, if any, the American and British had engaged in. Back in 2013 Islamic terrorist groups tried to conquer Benghazi but failed. Despite that there are still some Islamic terror groups which refuse to leave the city and fight to the death when pressed over the issue.

The rival national governments in Tripoli and the Tobruk eventually negotiated a merger deal in late 2015. Most Libyans are fed up with the continuing violence. The 2011 rebellion against Kadaffi left over 30,000 dead but the infighting since then has killed nearly as many. Most major factions agree on peace but Islamic terrorist groups in Tripoli and Benghazi, aided by tribal factions that want more power and money, continue to fight.

Many Libyans are calling for foreign intervention. So has neighbor Egypt. So far the most NATO nations will do is an occasional air strike and a small but growing special operations presence. The main justification for this is the growing presence of ISIL in Libya, which the locals were having a difficult time containing. Once the ISIL presence is eliminated all NATO nations will face political pressure to withdraw from Libya.

 


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