In March 2011, the United Kingdom and France, with the support of the United States, led the international community to support an intervention in Libya to protect civilians from attacks by forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi. This policy was not informed by accurate intelligence. In particular, the Government failed to identify that the threat to civilians was overstated and that the rebels included a significant Islamist element. By the summer of 2011, the limited intervention to protect civilians had drifted into an opportunist policy of regime change. That policy was not underpinned by a strategy to support and shape post-Gaddafi Libya. The result was political and economic collapse, inter-militia and inter-tribal warfare, humanitarian and migrant crises, widespread human rights violations, the spread of Gaddafi regime weapons across the region and the growth of ISIL in North Africa. Through his decision making in the National Security Council, former Prime Minister David Cameron was ultimately responsible for the failure to develop a coherent Libya strategy.
Looking to the future, the United Nations has brokered the formation of an inclusive Government of National Accord (GNA). Stable government is the sine qua non for the resolution of Libya’s ongoing humanitarian, migrant, economic and security crises. However, regional actors are currently undermining the GNA by flouting the United Nations arms embargo and using Libyan militias as proxies. The GNA is the only game in town. If it fails, the danger is that Libya will descend into a full-scale civil war to control territory and oil resources. The international community must support the United Nations and the people of Libya by uniting behind the GNA; the alternative is political fragmentation, internecine violence, economic collapse and even more human suffering.
9 September 2016