France, together with the US and the UK, perform special military operations against the Islamic State (IS) in Libya, according to a report by French newspaper Le Monde.
According to Le Monde, French Special Forces and the military unit of France’s DGSE intelligence agency are engaged in covert operations against the Islamic State in Libya, alongside the US and UK. An unnamed source said that the French Special Forces are in Eastern Libya since mid-February.
Yesterday, France24 reported that the French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has launched an “investigation” to identify the source behind Le Monde’s article as the French government denies the existence of such kind of operations in Libya.
Still, according to Reuters, Libyan Special Forces commander Wanis Bukhamada said that “the French military group in Benghazi are just military advisers who provide consultations to the Libyan National Army in its battle against terrorism, but they are not fighting with our Libyan forces.”
Situation in Libya
The situation in Libya, is very complicated as Libya’s rival factions are struggling to agree to a UN-backed national unity government.
Many politicians from both the rival Libya government do not want any foreign military involvement in the country as it may fuel division among the Libyan citizens and even boost the IS popularity.
According to Reuters, Italy is resisting pressure from its allies to allow aircraft and armed drones to stage attacks on Islamic State militants in Libya from its territory, saying on Thursday that direct Western military intervention on the ground there was “unthinkable.”
“Libya can be stabilized by local forces. A military intervention and occupation of the country (by Western forces) would be unthinkable,” Italian Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti said in an interview on Canale 5 television.
When asked about reports of French special forces on the ground there, she said: “In the past, unilateral accelerations have not helped Libya.”
Reports about US and UK secret missions against IS in Libya
In December, British daily The Guardian, also reported that a secret US commando mission to Libya has been revealed after photographs of a special forces unit were posted on the Facebook page of the country’s air force. US admitted that the special forces were in Libya, but it said that the personnel didn’t stay in the war-torn country.
A Pentagon spokesman had said then: “With the concurrence of Libyan officials, US military personnel traveled to Libya on 14 December to engage in a dialogue with representatives of the Libyan National Army. While in Libya, members of a local militia demanded that the US personnel depart. In an effort to avoid conflict, they did leave, without incident.”
Moreover, on late January, British daily, The Sunday Times reported that a team of British military and intelligence officers undertook a secret reconnaissance mission to Libya to plan RAF airstrikes against IS militants. Sunday Times reported that six RAF officers flew to an airbase in eastern Libya, controlled by pro-western militia forces, along with a group of MI6 operatives, diplomats from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and US and French military personnel.
“The choice of a strategy of containment, which consists of constraining and eliminating the jihadist group’s leaders through targeted operations, sometimes secretly [using special forces], sometimes clandestinely [using the DGSE’s military unit], is, by default, the strategy best adapted to the complexities of Libya’s chaotic theatre,” Michel Goya, a military strategy consultant and former colonel in the French Marines, told France24.
However, Goya stressed that he doubted the strategy would work in the long term, as it “rarely produces definitive and decisive results if the targeted group has a minimal local presence.”
Libyan official government condemns any foreign involvement
Today the AFP news agency reported that Libya’s internationally recognized government denied reports about any foreign secret missions against IS in Libya.
The recognized government “didn’t allow and won’t allow any foreign forces to enter Libyan territories,” spokesman Hatem el-Ouraybi told official news agency LANA.
“Our brave soldiers in the Arab Libyan Armed Forces are the ones who freed Benghazi from the hand of terror without any support from the international community,” he said.
However, according to AFP, a day ago the previous day the rival Libyan government in Tripoli, which is not recognized by the international community, said French special forces “were leading the fight in Benghazi.”
The Tripoli based government leans more towards Islamism while the officially recognized government leans more towards secularism.