In March 2011 Western powers backed by Arab Gulf monarchies launched a regime-change war on behalf of Islamist and tribal militias to topple Libya’s Gaddafi. Six months later he was gone.
What followed wasn’t a pro-Western liberal regime (with hardcore Islamists forming the rebel vanguard how could it be?), but national disintegration as the country split up between so many militia turfs.
The disintegration, and the space it allowed al-Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood style Islamists did not sit well with Egypt’s military government and the United Arab Emires (the latter which was a mayor backer of the 2011 regime change).
The two poured support behind forces of Khalifa Haftar who moving from the Egyptian border westward since 2014 has gradually squeezed the Islamists and the western-transported government to just a small patch of territory (albeit in a country as vast as Libya “small” is relative) in the country’s capital Tripoli region.
In the recent days he has proclaimed a final offensive against the capital, which achieved impressive initial gains, and looked like it might just succeed in unifying the country under him.
The US warned Haftar to call off his offensive and The New York Times has called for a US intervention to stop him, but so far the only thing which has happened was that the Pentagon has evacuated US diplomats and its troops from Tripoli:
The U.S. military has withdrawn its troops from Libya as a local military commander’s forces advanced on the capital for a showdown with militias holding the city.
“Due to increased unrest in Libya, a contingent of U.S. forces supporting U.S. Africa Command temporarily relocated in response to security conditions on the ground,” AFRICOM said in a statement.
The command did not elaborate on the size of the troop contingent or where they were moved to. “We will continue to monitor conditions on the ground and assess the feasibility for renewed U.S. military presence, as appropriate,” said Nate Herring, an AFRICOM spokesman.
— Ali Özkök (@Ozkok_) April 7, 2019
— CNW (@ConflictsW) April 7, 2019
Look, everyone understands that given enough investment the US military can come back in and defeat Haftar rather easily — but that is not the point. The point here is that over and over again the US has the idea that with only a limited investment of blood, money and effort it can waltz into a foreign country and have the outcome it wants.
Yet over and over again that turns out to not be the case. Over and over again, it turns out the Empire does not have the wherewithal and the capability to create the outcomes it wants with the expense in lives and treasure it is willing to sacrifice.
Which is why it is right now — at least for the time being— being booted out of its 2011 prize of war, by its own former CIA asset inflated by Egypt, United Emirates and France — it’s own supposed satellites, who care about what happens in Libya just a little bit more.
It remains to be seen if the Western-backed Tripoli government will follow in the Americans’ footsteps (swim strokes?) out.