WASHINGTON, DC -- Military intervention in Libya has been in serious consideration for the United States in order to open up another front in the fight against ISIS. American military figures have been more keen to express intervention as a possibility while the Obama Administration has not officially changed its political-centric narrative to stabilize Libya. Nonetheless, recent reports have shown that there has been pressure on the President to use military force in the country. While the President has reportedly been open to the use of more airstrikes in the region, advising Libyan forces, and is heavily pushing for the formation of a unity government, he has been adamant that the use of ground troops won’t be an option in Libya--especially since there are still active US forces in Afghanistan and Syria. Despite this, the matter is an urgent one, considering that there is now 5,000-6,500 more ISIS fighters in Libya. This figure is nearly double the number released last fall.
In a February 4th briefing, Press Secretary Josh Earnest reinforced the administration’s stance:
We're going to continue to watch how the threat in Libya evolves, and we're going to continue to be prepared to take action. So I think that's why I'd sort of push back against the suggestion that there is a consideration of a new front.
The White House’s anti-intervention view has been echoed, but has been less firm, in the State Department and the Department of Defense. Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook described boots-on-the-ground as “not something that's under consideration,” and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said, “We're looking to help them get control over their own country and, of course, the United States will support the Libyan government when it forms.”
In recent talks with France, the 19th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford discussed the “framework for military action in Libya against ISIL terrorists.”
It's fair to say we're looking to take decisive military action against ISIL [in Libya] in conjunction with a legitimate political process. The president has made clear that we have the authority to use military force.
Libya has been experiencing a power vacuum of sorts since the overthrow of Muammar el-Qaddafi in 2011. Since then, groups have been warring each other rather than fighting the Islamic State. The chaos and civil war has made the country fertile for ISIS to “root” there. There has not only been fighter growth, but reports of ISIS leadership being sent to establish another affiliate group.
While there may be pressure on the President to intervene militarily in Libya, the likelihood that Obama will commit large numbers of soldiers to a new ISIS front is very low due to his desire to keep American lives out of risk while he wraps up his second term. However, airstrikes and an increase in serious discussions about Libya and the spread of ISIS may be on the horizon.