Fighting the war and peace in Libya

MP Tom Brake asked for input on whether we should support a war to defeat Da’esh in Libya. I would support such a war but with these provisos.

First, we must have an unequivocal resolution from the UN Security Council supporting any such action. The paltry effort which usually emanates from the council is not enough. Then the UN in general must put its money where its mouth is, both in gold and in its personnel. Here I do not mean just the usual suspects – the US, Canada, the UK, other european countries and a few from further afield but as many countries as is possible to convince to do so. We cannot do it without the support of the Arab League, the African Union and countries like Russia, Pakistan and others We must also have invitation and confidence from the Libyan government.

Second, in order to properly play our part and still be able to defend ourselves adequately, we have to take our Armed Forces establishment to the levels of before the coalition. The equipment we supply to our troops must be correct for first the war fighting and then afterwards the peacekeeping. We have to learn from our experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq. In Afghanistan, Urgent Operational Requirement notices were used to replace equipment which was failing our troops, or to fill a need existing equipment didn’t cover. This must not happen in Libya, our troops must have the best equipment on offerWe also have to have the willpower to keep the necessary troops in theatre to stop the debacle of our time in Helmand, when we were unable to hold the ground we patrolled and so took unnecessary casualties.

Third, we need military men with the knowledge to fight this war, the likes of Patreaus and Kilcullen. It wasn’t until the Surge in both Iraq and Afghanistan that the insurgency was countered. It is telling that between the US Marine subduing of Helmand province and the drawdown of both US and UK troops, the Taliban was unable to penetrate into North Helmand.

Finally, we must control the borders of Libya. The Taliban were able to slip over the border into and out of Pakistan because the borders were insecure. Therefore we will have to have the support of the surrounding countries and not have one of them fighting an asymmetrical, proxy war as did Iran. To secure those we cannot rely on irregular forces or civilian ‘security companies.’ Bin Laden escaped because we paid warlords to guard the eastern borders and our efforts in Iraq were lessened by the likes of Blackwater. So our allies in this venture must only use government troops as must we.

All four points are big asks, but without all of them we might not succeed. If we cannot achieve them then we should not prosecute a Libyan war.

* Steve Walpole is a veteran of HM Armed Forces and is currently Vice Chair of Skipton and Ripon Lib Dems

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  • “MP Tom Brake asked for input on whether we should support a war to defeat Da’esh in Libya.”
    Could we preferably, ‘cut our teeth’ on something easier, less expensive, and less destructive first? I would much prefer to see a credible plan on how to stop Da’esh from slipping in and out of Molenbeek. Let’s take off the blinkers here. If we cannot even control jihadists from shape-shifting between ‘hibernation’, and ‘chaos creation’ in the very heart of Europe, what is the likelihood of success in sending thousands of young lives to their death, whilst simultaneously spending a (£)billion to bomb Libya into democracy?
    Please?,…Let’s hear the credible plan to de-radicalise Molenbeek first, and maybe then we can look again at the more adventurous, expensive and ethereal stuff?

  • Nom de Plume 25th Mar '16 - 12:57pm

    @J Dunn

    I would guess this is what Da’esh would like us to do – focus on domestic problems while they consolidate their position in Libya. This is war. They remind me of the tactics used by the Nazis.

  • Jayne Mansfield 25th Mar '16 - 1:39pm

    I never thought I would say this, but I agree with John Dunn.

    I have come to the conclusion that we can’t know what so called Daesh want us to do. If I were able to second guess what goes through the minds of Daesh, including the home-grown variety, I would be really worried about my sanity.

    They offer nothing positive, only destruction, and therein I hope, lies the seeds of their own.

  • Eddie Sammon 25th Mar '16 - 1:40pm

    An informative article. I agree on your points except the one about a second UN resolution. Wouldn’t it be legal without one?

    The legality is important, but I don’t think we should have to ask the UN for permission before we defend ourselves and our allies. We shouldn’t give other countries a veto on our defence policy.

  • Nom de Plume 25th Mar '16 - 1:54pm

    @ Jayne Mansfield

    It is not second guessing. It is called analysis.

  • A Social Liberal 25th Mar '16 - 2:05pm


    It would be legal if we were invited in by the government in Libya. However, the resolution takes away any ambiguity that might be thrown at us later. It also demostrates that the whole world is against Da’esh and that it isn’t just the ‘crusading West’

  • A Social Liberal 25th Mar '16 - 2:12pm


    By taking the fight to Da’esh we are taking away their ability to plan and execute terrorist actions. There is a saying, the best form of defence is attack – a good maxim to hold so long as we don’t go off half cocked

  • Jayne Mansfield 25th Mar '16 - 4:37pm

    @ A social liberal,

    ISIS are an ideology, they are like a metastatic cancer. Defeat them in one area be it Syria or Iraq and they will find space to grow in another.

    If the two opposing administrations in Libya that have now formed a unity government, cannot fight what is supposed to be a common enemy, or do not have the absolute support of the majority of people in Libya to do so, how will outside military intervention work?

    What has happened to the sponsors of the two former administrations, have they reached an accord or are they still stirring the pot?

    I am not a pacifist, but I have seen very little Western intervention in the Middle East in recent history that has given me confidence in our ability to do anything other than cause greater chaos.

  • nigel hunter 25th Mar '16 - 10:08pm

    ISIS wish the west to fight amongst ourselves. To look inwards and leave them to slowly dominate. They must be attacked wherever and whenever, that is how the forces of freedom, a mixed bunch at that, defeated the enemy in World War 2 Free men doing nothing allows evil to dominate. It would be very good if the Libyan people invited us in, with us not repeating passed mistakes.

  • Tsar Nicholas 26th Mar '16 - 4:03am

    I don’t recall party members being asked their views before the original intervention – the one that caused all this chaos and death – back in 2011. I just recall silence, presumably to avoid embarrassing the Lib Dem members of HM Government.

  • I have a difficulty with the ‘hand waving’ away of what is emerging in Molenbeek as merely … ‘domestic problems’. The Molenbeek phenomenon is very serious, because these jihadist killers that you rightly fear within Libya are also the very same minded jihadist killers living here,…right now, in Europe.
    There is also a greater reason for tackling the ‘jihadist enclave’ which is embodied by Molenbeek. Is it not reasonable to assume that there are potentially hundreds of ‘Molenbeek(s)’, secretly growing within districts and suburbs of Bristol, …Birmingham,… Glasgow? We often speak of ‘home grown’ terrorists, but then don’t follow the same logic that we must therefore have ‘home grown Molenbeek(s)’.
    So, whilst you are focusing on the jihadist killers causing death and destruction thousands of miles away in Libya, you risk being blindsided by the very same jihadist killers possibly living as close as 10 miles from where you are sitting now?
    Yes,.. These are uncomfortable questions, but must be asked ,.. Where are all of the other potential European and UK Molenbeek(s)’? And how do we de-radicalise them?

  • Simon Banks 26th Mar '16 - 4:08pm

    Steve’s article makes some very sensible points. Military intervention can work – consider the first Gulf War to push the Iraqis out of Kuwait, or indeed, the success of German reconstruction after 1945 – but it must be based on international law, be based on a realistic assessment of conditions in the affected area and what military intervention can achieve and go hand in hand with a well-worked-out plan for reconstruction after military victory.

    The point he makes about military capability underlines the futility of continuing to waste money on Trident.

  • Barry Snelson 26th Mar '16 - 5:51pm

    Sending our sons and daughters to die is a big step. This is not a video game called “Liberals rescue the world”. These kids really will come back in boxes or without legs.
    The British are 1% of the world’s population. We should leave the global policeman role to the other 99%.

  • A Social Liberal 28th Mar '16 - 1:25am


    having played a very small part in helping some of those boys and girls who came back from our wars damaged, I find your comments both patronising and crass. You also seem to be saying that the help we could offer to those unable to help themselves should not be given because of the casualties we would incur that the Libyan people are not worth it. Personally, I would say differently.

    Finally, on your worlds policeman comment. You are quite right, we could not – should not – enter into this on our own. However, it almost seems as you have either not read my article or if you have, were not able to grasp the salient points. I say this because nowhere have I argued that the UK should act unilaterally.

    Jenny. Da’esh are NOT an ideology – their wahibbi-ism is the defining idealogy and is soundly rejected by the vast majority of the worlds muslims. Da’esh are just terrorists, more viscious than our home grown Irish terrorists but still, just terrorists. As such, they should be confronted in just the same way as governments have before, from the thugees to The Indonesian terrorists in Borneo.

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