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  • U.S. warplanes launch bombing campaign on Islamic State in Libya

    Mon Aug 1, 2016 7:16pm EDT

    U.S. warplanes launch bombing campaign on Islamic State in Libya

    U.S. planes bombed Islamic State targets in Libya on Monday, responding to the U.N.-backed government's request to help push the militants from their former stronghold of Sirte in what U.S. officials described as the start of a sustained campaign against the extremist group in the city.

    "The first air strikes were carried out at specific locations in Sirte today causing severe losses to enemy ranks," Prime Minster Fayez Seraj said on state TV. Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said the strikes did not have "an end point at this particular moment in time".

    Forces allied with Seraj have been battling Islamic State in Sirte - the home town of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi - since May.

    The militants seized the Mediterranean coastal city last year, making it their most important base outside Syria and Iraq. But they are now besieged in a few square kilometers of the center, where they hold strategic sites, including the Ouagadougou conference hall, the central hospital and the university.

    Seraj said the Presidential Council of his Government of National Accord, or GNA, had decided to "activate" its participation in the international coalition against Islamic State and "request the United States to carry out targeted air strikes on Daesh (Islamic State)."

    The air strikes on Monday - which were authorized by U.S. President Barack Obama - hit an Islamic State tank and two vehicles that posed a threat to forces aligned with Libya's GNA, Cook said.

    In the future, each individual strike will be coordinated with the GNA and needs the approval of the commander of U.S. forces in Africa, Cook added.

    This was the third U.S. air strike against Islamic State militants in Libya. But U.S. officials said this one marked the start of a sustained air campaign rather than another isolated strike.

    The last acknowledged U.S. air strikes in Libya were on an Islamic State training camp in the western city of Sabratha in February.


  • #2
    It's Bombs Away for the USA in Libya

    Almost guaranteed to spread more misery across North Africa.

    By Vijay Prashad / AlterNet August 3, 2016

    The United States returned to aerial bomb Libya. The target is Islamic State (IS) positions in the north-central city of Sirte. IS has held Sirte and its surrounding areas since last year. Sirte is the birthplace of Muammar Qaddafi, who was also killed there. After the fall of the Qaddafi government, this central Libyan town languished. It had become the playground of the Libyan Dawn – the militia of the town of Misrata, led by Salah Badi – and later the Libya Shield Force of Benghazi. The latter had close ties to al-Qaeda and is now part of the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries. When the Islamic State attacked Sirte last year, the various militias had little incentive to stay. They delivered the city to the Islamic State and withdrew to their own hometowns. Attempts to erode the Islamic State by other militias and armies have thus far failed.

    The US military says that it will continue to conduct bombing raids on IS positions as long as necessary. While there are US Special Operations troops in Libya, they are not engaged in this action. The Government of National Accord (GNA) – led by Fayez al-Sarraj – invited the United States to bomb the Islamic State. The GNA’s attempt to defeat the Islamic State on the ground has stalled after some rapid movement into the city. Aerial bombardment by the United States, it is hoped, will refocus the GNA troops towards their objection – the seizure of Sirte from the Islamic State.

    These are not the first US strikes on Libya. It is important to remember that it was the US-led NATO war on Libya in 2011 that broke the Libyan state – destroying its institutions and allowing the West’s preferred rebels to chase out anyone with links to the government. This is precisely what the US occupation had done in Iraq; it was repeated in its details within Libya (I show this in my new book, The Death of the Nation). A Libya with a weak institutional scaffolding rapidly descended into chaos. Town-based militias took control over their domains, fighting between towns for control over the hinterland. Older extremist forces – the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group – returned to authority, with some of their fighters who had experience in Afghanistan and Iraq now leaders in their hometowns. Many of these young men went to Syria via Turkey to fight against the government of Bashar al-Assad. Once the West began to bomb IS targets in Syria, they came home to set up their own vilayat of the Islamic State. Fighters from other parts of North Africa – particularly Tunisia – joined them as they seized Sirte and its surrounding areas. The US bombed their positions last November and then again this February – to no avail. They dug in.

    Benghazi is a real place

    In the United States, ‘Benghazi’ has become a slogan. It has come to mean that Hillary Clinton is not trustworthy. But Benghazi, of course, is a real city in eastern Libya with a population of over six hundred thousand people. It is a city in great distress, its unity fragmented and its people traumatized by an endless war that is taking place within the heart of its residential areas.

    As the US bombed the IS positions this week, a massive car bomb struck Benghazi. This bomb killed at least twenty-two people and wounded twenty others. The bomb went off in the Guwarsha residential district in Benghazi, which has been the frontline for the past two years between various Islamist extremists – including the Islamic State – and the Libyan National Army led by a former CIA asset, General Khalifa Hafter. The various Islamist groups are mostly under the command of the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries, which includes Ansar al-Sharia. The most extreme elements of the latter joined the Islamic State. The Shura Council has taken responsibility for the most recent bomb blast.

    The Libyan National Army has conducted its own airstrikes against the Shura Council and Islamic State forces in both the Guwarsha and Ganfouda neighborhoods of Benghazi. In late June, the Libyan National Army carried out particularly severe bombing of these areas. Civilian casualties are suspected, although it is hard to verify what is going on within areas controlled by the Islamic State and the Shura Council. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s leader Abu Ubaidah Yusuf al-Anabi, in an audio message, called on Libyans to fight the ‘Franks’ in Benghazi. He also called upon the Libyan National Army to allow women and children safe passage from Ganfouda. Haftar’s advisors rejected this proposal. A MIG-23, flown by the highly-regarded Major Idris Hamed al-Obeidi, was shot down in Ganfouda in early July. Mercy is not on the lips of his comrades.


    • #3
      Fragile politics

      Politics in Libya remains fragile. The Government of National Accord (GNA) emerged out of desperation. Two parallel governments – one in Tripoli and one in Tobruk/Bayda – had established themselves. They had begun to create parallel institutions, including two oil ministries. Meanwhile, in Benghazi, General Khalifa Hafter acted as a third government, unwilling to bring himself under civilian control. He began a war on the Shura Council in order to take Benghazi as his prize after being chased out of Tripoli. Pressure from the United Nations and the West forced the two governments of Tripoli and Tobruk to merge. They selected al-Sarraj, who comes from a family of Libyan grandees, to take the helm. Al-Sarraj came from the Western-backed Tobruk government. He has had a hard time gaining the trust of the Islamists of the Tripoli government.

      When the new GNA passed Decree no. 1, which sought to bring all military forces under civilian command, General Hafter was not on the list. Nor was Ibrahim Jadhran, the head of the Petroleum Facilities Guards, who controls a swathe of Libyan oil lands. In Tripoli, the avarice of Haitham Tajouri and his militia competes with the old al-Qaeda hand Abdelhakim Belhaj. Al-Sarraj might be the leader of the GNA, but in Tripoli he exists at the mercy of these warlords. When the GNA prepared to release twelve men accused of crimes against the uprising of 2011 last month, unknown assailants executed them in the Ain Zara prison – just south of Tripoli. This is an example of how the armed militias continue to exercise control over Libyan society, with no expectation that the GNA could tether them. Libyan institutions – weak already under Muammar Qaddafi and then destroyed by the NATO war – are not strong enough to consolidate power. It is this weakness that will allow the Shura Council and the Islamic State to maintain its authority.

      What will the US airstrikes do in such a brittle political environment? An advisor to the GNA says that they hope these airstrikes will allow their troops to take back Sirte. If they do so, he says, then the West and the UN will lift the sanctions that thus far prevent $67 billion of Libyan sovereign funds from being in the control of the Libyan government. The price for this money is to help remove the Islamic State. The West, in other words, is holding the money hostage till Libya’s government goes along with its agenda. It is important, therefore, to acknowledge that when the Libyan government requests US airstrikes, it does so not of its own volition but because of the conditions for the release of its own money. The airstrikes weaken the Libyan government. People are already saying that even General Haftar conducts his own airstrikes. He does not ask the Americans for help.

      Will the airstrikes actually degrade and destroy the Islamic State? It is not merely the Islamic State that is Libya’s problem. Airstrikes such as this will only move these fighters to other locations – to Tunisia, for instance, or to Benghazi. They will continue to be a serious problem in North Africa. Indeed, if they return to Tunisia, they will bring great peril to that country, which has only just seen its head of government lose a vote of no-confidence. In March, the Tunisian town of Ben Guerdane, on the Libyan border, saw virulent clashes between IS and the Tunisian army. What is now being called ‘Islamo-gangsterism’ has entered Tunis’ slums such as Ettadhamen. These are increasingly tinder-boxes. Or they will head to Benghazi, where the battlefield has destroyed the city that started the uprising of 2011.

      Vijay Prashad is professor of international studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. He is the author of 18 books, including Arab Spring, Libyan Winter (AK Press, 2012), The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South(Verso, 2013) and the forthcoming The Death of a Nation and the Future of the Arab Revolution (University of California Press, 2016). His columns appear at AlterNet every Wednesday.



      • #4
        Pentagon Bombs Libya Again: Under the Guise of “Fighting Terrorism”

        The War against Africa Continues

        By Abayomi Azikiwe
        Global Research, August 02, 2016

        Even before the ink was dry on the meaningless platform resolutions passed at last week’s Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Philadelphia, the administration of President Barack Obama has bombed the North African state of Libya.

        This latest attack continues the more than five year war against the people of Libya, once the most prosperous state in Africa, now destroyed at the aegis of U.S. imperialism, NATO and its regional allies. Under the cover of fighting the so-called Islamic State (IS), the White House seeks to further cover-up its culpability in creating the worst humanitarian crisis since the conclusion of World War II.

        In 2011, the Obama administration deployed hundreds of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) personnel to facilitate the counter-revolutionary militias that were funded by imperialism to overthrow the Jamahiriya government under the late Col. Muammar Gaddafi. Tens of thousands of people died in the war which relied upon the blanket bombing of the civilian and state institutions reducing the North African state to destitution, impoverishment and the center of destabilization throughout the region.

        This latest round of aerial bombardments are being presented to the U.S. and world opinion as a defensive measure against the Islamic extremists who have a base in the embattled country along the western coastal cities including Sirte, the home area of Gaddafi. However, it was the U.S. which created the conditions for the formation of ISIS in their war against Iranian influence in Iraq and the attempts to remove the government of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

        According to the Washington Examiner, “A Pentagon statement says the airstrikes were conducted at the request of the new Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) and were authorized by President Obama acting on the recommendations of Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford. Forces aligned with the new government have already captured territory surrounding the city of Sirte, and the Pentagon said American airstrikes were designed to enable the Libyan government-backed forces ‘to make a decisive, strategic advance.’” (Aug. 1)

        The article goes on to say
        “While the U.S. has conducted unilateral strikes aimed at individual Islamic State members, this is the first time the U.S. has provided air cover for Libyan fighters on the ground. The strikes were described as consistent with the U.S. approach to combating the Islamic State by working with ‘capable and motivated local forces.’ The Pentagon said it plans more strikes in the coming days.”
        Nonetheless, as per usual, the administration provides no end-game to the bombings. In 2011, Obama called the U.S. involvement in Libya as “limited” and that the Pentagon was “leading from behind.” Yet the deployment of CIA operatives even prior to the beginning of the bombings on March 19, 2011, was revealed in a report published by the New York Times.

        The-then NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said of this notion of a limited leading from behind that without the assistance of the Pentagon the mission in Libya could have never been carried out. It is the U.S. that supplies much of the war material such as fighter jets, bombs, intelligence mapping and diplomatic cover in all modern-day wars of regime-change and imperialist conquest.

        The Democratic Party and the War Machine

        These military actions in Libya are by no means a surprise to those who watched the Democratic National Convention (DNC) during the week of July 25. There was never any acknowledgement from anyone speaking from the podium of the failures of Pentagon and CIA military adventures in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen and other geo-political regions.

        Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who served in the first administration of Obama voted in favor of the intervention and occupation of Iraq carried out by President George W. Bush, Jr. Although Obama claimed that he opposed the Iraq war when he got into office the war was continued despite the drawing down of thousands of ground troops. However, the redeployment of Pentagon troops and intelligence operatives in Iraq is escalating into the thousands.

        It was Obama who accelerated troop deployments in Afghanistan where the war also moves forward with an announcement at the recent NATO Summit in Warsaw, Poland that there would be an increase in western troop levels in Central Asia as well as Eastern Europe targeting the Russian Federation in a renewed Cold War. Moreover, Clinton served as the public face of the Pentagon-NATO bombing of Libya to the point of calling for the capturing and killing of Gaddafi, where she joked and laughed in its aftermath on October 20, 2011.

        During the week of August 1, it was the Democratic leadership that maintained a posture of support for the families of slain war soldiers. Nevertheless, it has been quite obvious that under the Obama administration the plight of currently serving and discharged military personnel has been far less than adequate. Many Afghan and Iraq war veterans are homeless, incarcerated and suffering from numerous physical and psychological ailments.

        Despite the vast funding through the tax dollars of working families and the expropriation of resources of other countries, the services for veterans in many cases are non-existent. Suicide rates among veterans are reported to be as high and over 220 per day in the U.S. This grim set of circumstances involving the economic draft of youth due to the structural unemployment and poverty wages; the deployment to wars aimed exclusively for the acquisition of natural resources, strategic land masses and waterways; combined with blatant disregard towards the needs of the no longer enlisted soldiers has resulted in a human services crisis of monumental proportions.

        A Political Economy of Imperialist War

        The only rationale for permanent war in the age of imperialism is for economic gain along with maintaining a political advantage over other regional blocs such as the Russian Federation, the People’s Republic of China, political alliances that have emerged in South America, Central America and the Caribbean and the rival European Union (EU). Even though the EU is a subordinate inter-imperialist rival to the U.S., the recent withdrawal from the EU by the British electorate has sent shockwaves through the world capitalist markets.

        Consequently, there is the prospect for a continuation and even expansion in the production of military hardware which will be a source of profit for the defense industry and Wall Street. Declining energy and commodity prices have placed a dent in the profitability margin for the oil industry which reaped a windfall in the aftermath of the above-mentioned wars waged in the Middle East, Central Asia and the African continent. Other avenues of exploitation are needed by the capitalist system and these are the imperatives which are driving the dominant factions within both the Democratic and Republican parties.

        Although the capitalist parties in Britain and the U.S. are facing internal rebellions from both the right and the social democratic left, these institutions appear to have outlasted their functionality as instruments for the social containment of the working class and the nationally oppressed. This is why even the semblance of bourgeois or parliamentary democracy are absent within the context of intra-party affairs. Trump can walk in and take over the Republican Party without ever having to hold public office. Clinton with her laundry list of indiscretions and racism towards African Americans and other oppressed peoples is being sold to the electorate as a defender of “diversity” and stability.

        The renewed bombing of Libya signals the escalation of war against the peoples of the so-called Global South and those oppressed nations and communities within the imperialist states themselves whether in Europe or North America. To counter these provocations an international anti-imperialist movement must be built. This is the task of the organizations committed to reversing the tide of imperialist war and economic exploitation.



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