Libya Still Reeling From 2011 NATO Removal Of Gadhafi

From Libya to Mali, Nigeria and Somalia, NATO’s 2011 intervention against Moammar Gadhafi has had an undeniable domino effect — but when do the dominoes stop falling?

By Sean Nevins

Bernardino León, head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, told NPR last week that Libya is on the verge of complete economic and political collapse. Adding to this, he asserted, there could be more than half a million people waiting in the country to seek asylum across the Mediterranean in Europe.

“[W]e know that there are a lot of human rights abuses — asking for money, asking for prostitution in the case of women — something very common for people transiting through Libya,” León continued.

Commenting on the situation, David J. Francis from the Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre, a foundation established to strengthen peacebuilding policy and practice, told MintPress News that he was aghast at the reaction of the Western audience watching the crisis unfold.

Francis explained to MintPress:

“Part of the deal of bringing Gadhafi back from the cold to rehabilitate him as a legitimate player in the international community after spending decades of presenting him as the ‘Mad Dog’ of the Middle East was the fact that he would control immigration, and he delivered on that.”

Francis was referring to negotiations between Libya and the United Kingdom, which began the normalization of relations between the North African country and other Western countries, including the United States, from the late 1990s to the early 2000s.

Despite this, U.S., French, British, and NATO forces attacked the country in 2011, hoping rebels on the ground would overthrow Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Washington also spent $25 million in nonlethal aid to support rebels in Libya. Some rebel groups were connected to al Qaeda.

Chaos immediately ensued, followed by a self-indulgent and triumphalist American media and political apparatus that proclaimed victory and righteousness following the destruction of the country. Even today, Libya’s oil fields, controlled by the country’s National Oil Company, are under constant threat from extremist groups and militias.

“President Obama made the right, albeit belated, decision to join with allies and try to stop Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi from slaughtering thousands of Libyans,” The New York Times editorial section proclaimed on March 28, 2011.

Writing for The Intercept earlier this year, Glenn Greenwald noted that advocates for the war, like Anne-Marie Slaughter, president and CEO of the New America Foundation, and Nick Kristof, a columnist for The Times, applauded the U.S. decision to support anti-Gadhafi rebels in Libya.

Meanwhile, NATO leaders David Cameron, the British premier, and Nicolas Sarkozy, the president of France, visited the country for what Scott Peterson, Istanbul Bureau Chief for The Christian Science Monitor, described as “a victory lap” and a “pep talk.”

Military intervention into Libya was preceded by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973, which secured legal authority to intervene. The resolution imposed a no-fly zone over Libya, similar to what Turkey currently wants to implement over Syria, strengthened the arms embargo, and opened the door to the arming of anti-Gadhafi rebels.

Permanent U.N. Security Council members China and Russia abstained from the vote, but, more importantly, did not vote against the resolution, which allowed the intervention to legally proceed. Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s current prime minister and former president, has since stated: “Russia did not use its power of veto [of Security Council Resolution 1973] for the simple reason that I do not consider the resolution in question wrong.”

He added, “It would be wrong for us to start flapping about now and say that we didn’t know what we were doing. This was a conscious decision on our part.”

However, it was the U.S. and its NATO allies which spearheaded the operation, with France and England taking the initiative. A no-fly zone was imposed over the country, and from March to October NATO bombed Gadhafi forces until the Libyan leader was shot dead by rebels.

President Obama declared on Oct. 20, 2011: “[T]his is a momentous day in the history of Libya. The dark shadow of tyranny has been lifted.” But that was only the beginning for Libya and the fallout NATO actions had across the African continent.

Alan J. Kuperman, associate professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin, and author of “The Limits of Humanitarian Intervention: Genocide in Rwanda,” wrote in Foreign Affairs earlier this year:

“Libya has not only failed to evolve into a democracy; it has devolved into a failed state. Violent deaths and other human rights abuses have increased several fold. Rather than helping the United States combat terrorism, as Qaddafi did during his last decade in power, Libya now serves as a safe haven for militias affiliated with both al Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).”

Mali, Nigeria and Somalia: The beginning of an end

Fallout from the invasion didn’t affect only Libya, though. Ethnic Tuaregs from Mali, a nomadic Berber people, who Gadhafi had recruited to fight in his army in the 1990s, returned home to fight against the Bamako government after the Libyan leader’s fall. They brought with them heavy weaponry.

“So the actual outbreak of the war in Mali is directly linked to the fallout of the exit of Gadhafi and the way and manner it was mismanaged,” Francis, who is also the head of Peace Studies and director of the John & Elnora Ferguson Centre for African Studies at the University of Bradford in the U.K., told MintPress.

Francis wrote in an assessment of the Malian crisis in April 2013:

“Together with previous Tuareg rebel groups, they formed the MNLA [National Movement for the Liberation on Azawad] in 2011 as the political military platform to continue their fight for self-rule. It was these heavily armed and well-trained MNLA-led fighters that routed the government forces in March 2012 and declared northern Mali the independent state of Azawad.”

The MNLA is a conglomeration of Tuareg rebels with historic grievances against the Bamako government and Ansar al-Dine (“Defenders of the Faith”). The movement is led by former Tuareg rebel leader Iyad Ag Ghaly, who is thought to have links to al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Delaware Sen. Christopher A. Coons, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Africa, declared in 2012 that northern Mali had become “the largest territory controlled by Islamic extremists in the world.” Those extremists included al-Qaida and ISIS.

By April 2013, the situation was so serious, Francis wrote that, “Northern Mali had become not only their [religious extremists] new operational base, but also a magnet for foreign jihadist fighters. Mali, with its mountainous and desert terrain, is fast becoming the centre of gravity for jihadists and has led to a shift away from the traditional jihadist focus on South Asia to North Africa and the Sahel.”

Still, it should be added that Mali’s internal problems existed well before the fall of Gadhafi. NATO intervention in the North African state served as a spark to an already unstable situation. “Although the conflict in Libya may have provided the trigger for the Malian crisis, the fundamental problems that caused the crisis are largely domestic,” Francis noted.

Dramatic developments have since taken place.

On Monday, three Malian soldiers were killed in Bambara Maounde, Mali, about 73 miles south of Timbuktu. The violence comes on the heels of a peace deal between the Bamako government and rebel separatists to the north which was supposed to be signed last week. The signing was stalled because the Coordination of Movements for Azawad (CMA), an alliance of Tuareg and Arab-led rebel groups, demanded that amendments be made to the agreement.

Alan Kuperman, the professor and author, wrote: “The terrorism problem was exacerbated by the leakage of sensitive weapons from Qaddafi’s arsenal to radical Islamists across North Africa and the Middle East.”

Many of those weapons are believed to have spread throughout the continent, leading to unrest in Burkina Faso. They’re even believed to have fallen into the hands of Boko Haram, which has been leading a religious extremist insurrection in Nigeria, and al-Shabab in Somalia.

On a recent trip to Africa, Francis was told by African Union intelligence sources that most of Boko Haram’s arms came from Gadhafi’s arsenal. And the same can be said of some of al-Shabab’s weaponry. “Some of the Boko Haram terrorists were already training in a disused warehouse in Mogadishu [Somalia],” he added.

He said, “The arms were coming through the desert region from Mali. And of course when you cross from Mali, you can find your way from Mauritania, and from Mauritania to Nigeria. It has been easy.”

Meanwhile, Kuperman has warned about how intervention that is packaged and sold as “humanitarian” should be viewed in the future.

Writing in International Security in 2013, a journal for the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, Kuperman asserted:

“NATO’s experience in Libya offers important lessons for humanitarian intervention and the responsibility to protect. First, potential interveners should beware both misinformation — resulting from inaccurate reporting or their own biased perceptions — and disinformation from concerted propaganda campaigns.”

He explained how American media regularly played into the hands of those propaganda campaigns and helped to disseminate disinformation:

“Libya’s initial uprising was not peaceful, nationwide, and democratic—as reported and perceived in the West—but violent, regional, and riven with tribalism and Islamist extremism. Qaddafi’s response was not to slaughter peaceful protesters or bombard civilian areas indiscriminately, as reported in the West, but rather to target rebels and violent protesters relatively narrowly, reducing collateral harm to noncombatants.”


© 2015 MintPress News

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  1. May 20, 2015 at 10:40 pm

    Excellent report per usual

    A comment and a question

    You have to feel a tad sorry that the Tuareg struggle for autonomy got co opted by Islamists after the dust settled. That’s not what they fought and died for

    Was Khadaffy anally raped by bayonet before or after he was shot?

    If you are a conspiracy theorist*, Khadaffy’s fatal error was agitating for an African Continental Currency backed by gold and not Yellen’s Green ultra plush

    *i am one. It was Bin Laden on the Grassy Knoll

  2. dubinsky
    May 20, 2015 at 10:45 pm

    .Libya was reeling BEFORE Gaddafi met his well-earned demise.

    it wasn’t his removal that is the cause of Libya’s problems. the decades of his insane despotism is far more to blame.

  3. angryspittle
    May 20, 2015 at 10:46 pm

    Ain’t it just awesome how we fucked up the whole region by pursuing the PNAC’s plans for regime change in all of those countries?

  4. CloudyTheScribbler
    May 20, 2015 at 10:48 pm

    but the US/NATO went beyond the UN mandate to protect civilians in Benghazi and elsewhere who were under siege and pushed for regime change instead, bombing the Qaddafi government to smithereens until it fell from power. Contrary to what the article quotes from Alan Kuperman, it is NOT clear, however, that Qaddafi’s intentions were entirely benign at the time the UN passed its more limited resolution

  5. CloudyTheScribbler
    May 20, 2015 at 10:50 pm

    no, Libya was relatively internally stable for many decades under Qaddafi, whatever you may think of his (kleptocratic etc) rule. It is not likely that without going beyond the narrow mandate of the Security Council, Libya would today be a situation where a jihadist-led coalition has the upper hand nationally

  6. dubinsky
    May 20, 2015 at 11:05 pm

    are you entirely unmindful of what was going on in Libya at the time that the Arab League felt they had to ask the UN to intervene?

    you call having Gaddafi use tanks, cannon, and aerial bombardment against Libyan cities as “relative internal stability”?????????????

  7. May 20, 2015 at 11:07 pm

    Insane despotism…? Seriously…?

    Libya – Economic development

    What pissed off the Corporate Elite was Gaddafi’s spurning the IMF/WB…!

  8. dubinsky
    May 20, 2015 at 11:16 pm

    QUITE seriously.

    “Freedom of expression is the right of every natural person, even if a person chooses to behave irrationally to express his or her insanity.”

    “If a community of people wears white on a mournful occasion and another dresses in black, then one community would like white and dislike black and the other would like black and dislike white. Moreover, this attitude leaves a physical effect on the cells as well as on the genes in the body.”

  9. dubinsky
    May 20, 2015 at 11:20 pm

    ” Gaddafi’s other side – murderous, blood-chilling and arrogant – was on ugly display in an interview he gave to the Washington Post in 2003. He was asked about the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, which killed 270 people. A Libyan national, Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, had been found guilty of the crime and Libya had offered to pay $2.7bn in compensation – convincing many that Gaddafi himself was personally complicit in the plot.

    When pressed, Gaddafi turned the tables, claiming Libya should be compensated too. Why would the US contribute, he was asked. “To compensate for the Libyans who were killed in the 1986 [US] bombing [of Gaddafi’s compound in Tripoli] – as well as for the victims of Lockerbie. How much do you think the compensation should be for Gaddafi’s daughter [who was one of the victims]? If a normal American needs $10m, then a daughter of Gaddafi should be worth billions.”

  10. CloudyTheScribbler
    May 20, 2015 at 11:42 pm

    no, after decades of relative stability, there was a massive upheaval in 2011, as I am well aware, and Qaddafi threatened a massacre of the rebels who were on the brink of defeat before the NATO intervention. But the UN only authorized a defensive measure to stave off a possible bloodbath, not bombing Qaddafi to smithereens and leaving the country without any stable basis. I think you misunderstand what I was saying, and noted elsewhere in these comments as well

  11. dubinsky
    May 20, 2015 at 11:47 pm

    massive upheaval and massacres of the citizenry…..coming after the sort of “stability” that comes from a despotic police state supporting an absolute dictatorship…….

    makes me think that the failure to understand is not really mine.

  12. mulp
    May 21, 2015 at 12:27 am

    “Qaddafi’s response was not to slaughter peaceful protesters or bombard civilian areas indiscriminately, as reported in the West, but rather to target rebels and violent protesters relatively narrowly, reducing collateral harm to noncombatants.”

    That sounds like a quote from the police chiefs here in the US to justify sending in the SWAT teams and militias against radical leftists protesting international trade meetings and occupy wall street, et al, and police misconduct here inside the USA.

  13. mulp
    May 21, 2015 at 12:28 am

    North Korea is extremely stable and very orderly and has no crime or litter.

  14. May 21, 2015 at 1:39 am

    Are you referring to Israel, per chance? Or is it Ukraine?

    How about the Saudis bombing the crap out of Yemen?

    The common denominator to all is, drum roll: the USofA…

  15. dubinsky
    May 21, 2015 at 1:53 am

    sophomoronic bullshh1t is fun, but at some point, we all have to leave the island of lost boys.

  16. Alice X
    May 21, 2015 at 2:09 am

    The US was good buds with Mubarak, a pillar of enlightenment – not such good buds with Morsi, he WAS elected, but by the wrong people – good buds again with Sisi, another pillar of enlightenment.

    Then there’s Bibi and his enlightened bunch.

    Oh and the house of Saud and their enlightened bunch.

    You need a score card to know the good guys from the bad guys.


    He was maybe something of an SOB, but he was co-operating and he was the US’ SOB.

    Then he wouldn’t join AFRICOM and was talking to the Chinese about an oil deal.

    He had to go.

  17. Alice X
    May 21, 2015 at 2:14 am

    And his refusal to join AFRICOM.

    Plus the Chinese were looking for an oil deal.