Libya: U.S., grateful to Italy but more efforts welcome

State Department spokesman Kirby,it is up to Rome' to decide

05 February, 10:13

    Long-term war against ISIS says Kerry [ARCHIVE MATERIAL 20160202 ] Long-term war against ISIS says Kerry [ARCHIVE MATERIAL 20160202 ]

    (by Claudio Salvalaggio) (ANSAmed) - WASHINGTON, FEBRUARY 5 - Italy's role in Libya is good but a greater engagement would be welcome, according to the US State department. The deployment of troops from Italy and other European countries to create a local stabilization force after the creation of a new national unity government is, according to the New York Times, one of the options under consideration to confront the escalating ISIS threat in Libya.

    The threat, according to US media, is increasing the pressure put by top US national security advisers on Obama to approve the use of military force in Libya to open a new front against the caliphate, in parallel with international diplomatic efforts for the approval of a new national unity government.

    Meanwhile US State Department spokesman, John Kirby, has stressed that Washington is grateful for Italy's engagement in the North African country, praising in particular the role undertaken by Carabinieri officers in training the Libyan military. However, he noted that greater engagement from Italy would be welcome. The United States - he said - will increase their efforts and we would like other countries to do the same.

    But the decision is up to them, noted the spokesman.

    US President Barack Obama meanwhile is preparing to take action. The White House only needs to decide, an anonymous top State Department official was quoted as saying by the New York Times, explaining that the dossier has been extensively examined by all departments.

    However, Obama, after meeting last Thursday with security advisors and top Pentagon officials, appears hesitant on what to do, worried to undertake in the last year of his mandate another military adventure in Libya after the disastrous void created by Gaddafi's ouster.

    At the same time, however, he must act quickly to prevent the risk of the ramification of ISIS at Europe's door, which could directly threaten American citizens and interests. For this reason, the US president has called for increased efforts to create a new Libyan government while the Pentagon ponders its options, including air raids, raids with commandos and advisors for Libyan troops on the ground, as special operation forces are doing now in eastern Syria.

    Large-scale troop deployment has been ruled out so far. But discussion within the Obama administration has not ended yet, and the scale or context of a potential US military involvement in Libya, which would be coordinated with European allies, have not been decided yet.

    Hope mainly depends on the approval of the new Libyan government, already rejected once by parliament with on the background the fight between rival factions. In case of success, each intervention could be coordinated with the new leadership, including the deployment of Italian and other European troops to create a local stabilization force.

    Options include relaunching a former Pentagon plan to train anti-terror troops. But time is running short, while ISIS continues to grow stronger: according to US defense, the number of ISIS fighters in Libya has increased from 5,000 to 6,500 - over twice the number of estimates made last fall by government analysts. For this reason, according to some top and former officials of the administration, if parallel processes supporting the political process in Libya and fighting ISIS ''strengthen each other'', at one point the US could act unilaterally (as already warned yesterday by Obama) or with allies if faced with a credible threat from the Caliphate's Libyan positions.

    Pentagon chief Ash Carter has said ''we will try to help them gain control of their country'', adding however that the intention is to avoid a situation like the ones in Syria and Iraq. Generals are awaiting orders, it is now up to the commander-in-chief, the president, to take that decision.


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