It has been revealed that French Special Forces have been secretly helping the Libyan troops in their battle against Islamic State militants. The revelation came from anonymous Libyan military officials – who are not authorized to speak to the press on the subject.
Additionally, the French have kept quiet about their involvement. When asked whether or not the information was correct, the French defense ministry simply refused to comment, before citing their policy which prevents them from passing comment on any activities that their special forces might be involved in.
The information has suggested that the French have set up an operations room in Banina air base in Benghazi, with this setting them alongside both the U.S. and Britain who already have troops there. As well as this, it is understood that the French are working alongside the countries to gather further information on the location of IS militants.
While some might view the French’s involvement as help to Libya, it’s not viewed completely positively. It has been claimed that various Salafist factions who work alongside Libya’s eastern army are unhappy with other countries intervening.
Despite this, the U.S. is still hoping to have the support of other countries, most notably France, the UK and Italy, as they bid to overcome IS forces. The U.S. has recently carried out airstrikes around Sabratha and while this is understood to have killed many IS fighters, it is thought that Serbian hostages were amongst the fatalities as well.
Libya is still attempting to recover from the aftermath of the uprising that resulted in the ousting of Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. The upheaval has allowed IS to take advantage and ultimately take control of major cities within the country.
The situation is not aided by the fact that Libya is now governed by two parliaments. One is internationally recognized and is based in the east around Tobruk, with the rival one is around Tripoli and backed by Islamist allies.
There is hope that a new government will be introduced in the near future. The United Nations have recently united several factions within the country, but this proposed unity government requires ratification from the eastern parliament. Once this has been received, it is hoped that international military operations will be much easier to arrange against IS.
For the time being, the situation simply appears to be worsening though.On Wednesday, the security headquarters of Sabratha were overtaken by Islamic State affiliates – resulting in 12 officers being beheaded. While the attackers were eventually driven out, it showed just how vulnerable the whole country is in the current instability.
International forces are frantically trying to devise solutions to thwart such attacks. Italy has been the most recent nation to make a significant move and the country now permits American drones to take off from Sicily. The main requirement with this is that the drones are only to be used for the purposes of targeting IS extremists based in Libya.
Additionally, an anonymous Italian defense ministry has claimed that there are further issues for the Americans to satisfy before launching drones. Each and every time drones are to take off from Sicily, Washington will have to request permission from the Italian government. It’s understood that Italy are only prepared to grant this permission if the purpose is to protect military personnel, rather than launch an offense.
As such, there is still little flexibility open to the likes of the U.S. who are the main force against IS. Nevertheless, with the French Special Forces now involved and the United Nations hoping to push through the new unity government, there is hope that the situation will start to gradually improve.