Libya air strikes could further strengthen ISIS, fuel regional instability

A second military intervention in Libya runs the risk of fuelling groups like ISIS by leading to new recruitment, according to International Alert, which argues instead for a stronger focus on dialogue and the political process in the country.

The prospect of a second intervention in Libya is being mooted more and more loudly by the day, in order to eradicate or at least push back the forces of ISIS in Libya, where around 3,000 fighters are present, mainly in the city of Sirte.

Rebecca Crozier, Head of the Middle East and North Africa programme at International Alert, said:

"Such an operation may well pose more problems than it solves. As we have seen in other contexts, for example in Afghanistan and Syria, air strikes are not only insufficient, they may also be counter-productive by giving additional legitimacy to forces being attacked – in this case ISIS – and leading to new recruitment."

In 2011, the first NATO military intervention in Libya, which was not accompanied by a comprehensive long-term plan, left behind a fragmented country on the brink of implosion, without state institutions, and disputed by rival armed militias.

Crozier added:

"Adding war to war risks further inflaming the situation, increasing the number of civilian casualties, destroying more of the country's infrastructure, deepening divisions, and enabling ISIS to present itself as a resistance to the 'godless west' trying to get its hands on the country's oil resources. This is likely to make the establishment of a more democratic and inclusive governance in Libya even more difficult."

A new military adventure could also fuel instability in neighbouring Tunisia, especially in the border towns of Ben Guerdane and Dhiba.

Olfa Lamloum, Country Manager for International Alert in Tunisia, said:

"A military intervention in Libya risks further destabilising Tunisia, not only because of the refugee crisis it will cause, but by exposing its territory to the threat of terrorist revenge. Tunisians expect to pay the price in terms of the insecurity and economic chaos any intervention would create."

Crozier added:

"The international community must redouble efforts to support dialogue and an inclusive political solution. Of course this will take a lot of time and effort. This process has seen a few gains in the past few months, but more effort is needed.

"Military interventions are pointless unless accompanied by a viable political process. It must include a comprehensive approach to combatting violent extremism, combining economic, social, cultural, security and political interventions, and must have the support of local people."

Lamloum concluded:

"The appropriate response to the terrorist threat is to promote peace, human development and full support for all those men and women who fight for human rights, social and political citizenship.

"Libya needs peace, not more war. Now is not the time to give up."


Notes to editors

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About International Alert: Established in 1986, International Alert is one of the world’s leading peacebuilding organisations. We work with local people around the world to help them build peace, and we advise governments, organisations and companies on how to support peace. In the Middle East and North Africa we strengthen the relationship between civil society and governments, and support local prospects for peace and reconciliation. At present, we run active programmes in Syria, Tunisia, Lebanon and Turkey. Find out more: