By Libya Herald reporter.
Tunis, 17 August 2015:
Britain’s ambassador to Libya has given the first hint that western air strikes may be unleashed against . . .[restrict]Islamic State (IS) bases around Sirte, aying bombing could be part of a “global plan” to stop the terror group.
After horrific images of IS executions in Sirte as it tightened its grip on the city, ambassador Peter Millett told Radio France International that western bombing was now on the table to combat IS, saying “we need to put together an overall plan for dealing with it, which no doubt could involve air strikes”.
Millett, who replaced Michael Aron in the early summer, was keen to emphasise that a return of western jets to Libya’s skies, four years after they helped destroy the Qaddafi regime, could form part of a larger effort to now destroy IS. In the interview, however, he was at pains to point out that all efforts remained centred on finding a means to end the current civil war.
He was in no doubt that IS was a regional problem, and called for regional players to come together to oppose it. “We need a global plan which involves first and foremost the Libyans themselves but also the countries of the region and other countries threatened by the organisation, and that means European countries as well,” he told RFI.
Millett’s comments came as Italian foreign minister Paulo Gentiloni said that IS’s grip on Sirte had taken on “worrying proportions” and that Libya risked becoming “another Somalia”.
Both statements are a recognition that, as Libya’s war grinds down its own forces, IS is able to move into the gap.
Eight months ago, Sirte was a base for Libya Dawn from which it launched attacks on government-held oil ports at Sidra and Ras Lanuf. Now, Dawn forces have been pushed out of Sirte while the Libyan National Army, preoccupied with battling Islamists in Benghazi, has no spare strength to move on the town.
Western air strikes against Sirte are, however, seen as fraught with problems. A NATO, or possibly NATO plus Arab coalition, air campaign would face the same obstacles encountered in Iraq and Syria, which is the lack of identifiable IS targets.
IS would be likely to disperse from Sirte after the initial air strikes. Bombing could switch to tactical air power in support of an LNA, or even Libya Dawn, advance into the town but that would involve the politically difficult deployment of forward air controllers with one or both forces. The fact that Libya Dawn and the LNA are not talking to each other is seen as making a western air operation all the more difficult. [/restrict]