French Special Forces join fight against ISIS in Libya

ISISFrench Special Forces join fight against ISIS in Libya

Published 25 February 2016

French Special Forces are among commando units operating on the ground in Libya against ISIS. A small French force has been operating out of Benghazi’s Benina airport, assisting forces of the internationally backed Libyan authorities in Tobruk. The Pentagon has said that in the absence of a unity government, U.S. Special Forces have been “partnering” with different militias for attacks on ISIS militants.

French Special Forces are among commando units operating on the ground in Libya against ISIS. A small French force has been operating out of Benghazi’s Benina airport, assisting forces of the internationally backed Libyan authorities in Tobruk.

Le Monde reports that France’s external security directorate, the DGSE – the French equivalent of the CIA – has been covertly operation in Libya for several months now. The DGSE provided the information which allowed the November U.S. strike on Derna, which killed the most senior ISIS leader in the country, Iraqi Abu Nabil al-Anbari.

U.S. Special Forces have been operating in Libya since late last fall.

Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French defense minister, has refused to comment on reports of a French presence in Libya, but said that the government  would launch an investigation into the leaking of sensitive information.

Pierre Martinet, a former senior DGSE official, told France Info that the development was reassuring, and that he thought Le Drian must have decided to make the information public. “If not, it would have remained relatively secret and Le Drian would have said nothing.” Opening an inquiry, Martinet added, served only to confirm the revelations.

The office of the French president, François Hollande, said France conditioned any ground intervention in Libya on the formation of a unity government in Tripoli, a request for French help, and an “international” coalition.

Federica Mogherini, head of EU diplomacy, in an interview with the French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche, said that EU countries must wait until a legitimate Libyan unity government has been formed and a request for EU help received before any member state intervenes against ISIS.

Security experts say that ISIS fighters are arriving from Tunisia and sub-Saharan Africa, mingling with thousands of migrants who are crossing the Sahara in order to find boats to take them to Europe.

ISIS is creating a real African jihadi army, we can see mass arrivals of jihadists, they are impossible to control for the simple reason that they use the same route as migrants,” said Paris-based terrorism expert David Thomson. “The airstrikes can reduce the shock that is coming, but they need ground troops to stop it.”

The United States hopes that a unity government would allow the different Libyan factions to focus their efforts on fighting ISIS, rather than each other. It is not clear, however, whether such a government would be formed – and, if formed, how stable and durable it will prove to be.

UN Libya envoy Martin Kobler tweeted: “Concerned by slowness of political process in Libya, overtaken by military events, must speed up to stop Daesh [ISIS] expansion.”

Observers note that recent battlefield successes by the forces of the internationally recognized Libyan government in Tobruk may, in fact, make it less likely that a unity government would be formed. Leading politicians in Tobruk have been saying that if their military forces are strong enough to push ISIS back, then these forces are strong enough to defeat the Libyan Dawn faction which is based in Tripoli – and that there is no need to compromise with the Tripoli faction.

The Pentagon, in the meantime, has said that in the absence of a unity government, U.S. Special Forces have been “partnering” with different militias for attacks on ISIS militants.

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