Libya, with its oil wealth and natural resources, could be an affluent and successful country. Instead, it is today a dangerous place and a chaotic society with continual fighting among Islamist terrorists, Arab nationalists, and a host of regional militias. The Obama administration and all democratic governments are now confronted by an increasingly troublesome issue, the growing influence of Islamist terrorism in Libya, Nigeria, and other countries in North Africa.
The terrorist groups, individually and in alliance, have taken advantage of the vacuum of central power and the mixture of rival tribal and regional groups and feuding political organizations in Libya. They control many of the large cities and much of the territory of the country, and are challenging the oilfields. Their tactics and ideology follow those of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, to which many claim allegiance.
It is commendable that the U.S. House Select Committee on Benghazi is planning as George Orwell once wrote to report on true facts and “not to feel obligated to fabricate imaginary facts and feelings.” At last, we will have the final definitive account of what happened before, during, and after the two attacks on September 11, 2012 by Islamist terrorists. The first on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others, and the second, a few hours later, on another compound killed two American CIA contractors and injured ten others.
The forthcoming report will remind the country that the attacks were carried out by organized terrorist groups, and not the result of supposed mass outrage over a video that inflamed passions, as members of the Obama administration suggested. We already know that Ahmed Abu Khattala, the alleged ringleader of the main terrorist group, Ansar al-Sharia in Libya, is being held in the U.S. on an 18-count indictment and multiple charges of murder. The group led the attack with assault rifles, grenades, and other weapons, and plundered sensitive U.S. information.
The Congressional inquiry should lead to further understanding of the dramatic increase of Islamist terrorism in North Africa. This is now a threat not only to neighboring countries in Africa but also to the whole world. Since the popular Libyan uprising in 2011, that followed the April Spring uprisings in Tunis and Egypt in February 2011, and the capture and death in October 2011 of the eccentric dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi who had ruled Libya for 42 years, the country has been in chaos. Gaddafi’s bizarre political system, named in 1977 “Jamahiriya” or “state of the masses”, and run through “revolutionary committees”, was transformed into a republic that did not bring stability and security.
Today, that republic contains not only countless Islamist militia groups but also different political authorities, two governments and two parliaments, the General National Congress and a national parliament. The GNC, that has chosen Omar al-Hasi as prime minister, is dominated by Islamists who belong to a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Libyan party.
The official parliament composed of liberals and federalists, and the elected government and the Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni, recognized internationally, has been forced to move to Bayda in east Libya. The commander of the Libyan army, General Khalifa Haftar, is conducting a campaign against Islamists. To counter their forces, General Haftar started “Operation Dignity,” an air and ground assault against the terrorist groups in Benghazi. It attacked Islamist bases held by Ansar al-Sharia, the Raf Allah al-Sahati Brigade, and the 17 February Martyrs Brigade.
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