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Jordan Candler / February 22, 2016

Islamic State Grows in Libya

But Obama refuses to authorize airstrikes.

Trying to destroy terrorist organizations is like trying to purge a yard of fire ants. Pouring pesticides over a colony’s mound may temporarily disrupt the fire ants, but the problem is that unless the queen is killed the mounds don’t really go away; they merely get relocated. Thus, the ants’ numbers and areal domain multiply. The same concept applies to terrorist safe havens. Whatever progress is being made against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq is being countered elsewhere such as in Libya. There, militants have quickly capitalized on the power vacuum created in the wake of the unsuccessful Arab Spring and Barack Obama’s smart power flubbed foreign policy.

ISIL’s growth in Africa has U.S. military officials increasingly worried, as reported in a weekend New York Times piece, “U.S. Scrambles to Contain Growing ISIS Threat in Libya.” According to the report: “Even as American intelligence agencies say the number of Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria has dropped to about 25,000 from a high of about 31,500, partly because of the United States-led air campaign there, the group’s ranks in Libya have roughly doubled in the same period, to about 6,500 fighters. … Islamic State leaders in Syria are telling recruits traveling north from West African nations like Senegal and Chad, as well as others streaming up through Sudan in eastern Africa, not to press on to the Middle East. Instead, they are being told to stay put in Libya. American intelligence officials, who described the recent orders from Islamic State leaders, say the organization’s immediate goal is to carve out a new caliphate in Libya, and there are signs the affiliate is trying to establish statelike institutions there.”

Obama acted too late and too softly in Iraq and Syria, which allowed ISIL to spread elsewhere. And in Libya, even airstrikes appear off limits for now. Last Thursday reporter Nancy A. Youssef revealed, “Despite the growing threat from the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Libya, the Obama administration has turned down a U.S. military plan for an assault on ISIS’s regional hub there, three defense officials told The Daily Beast. … The airstrikes would target ISIS resources while a small band of Special Operations Forces would train Libyans to eventually be members of a national army, the officials said. … But those plans have since been put on the back burner. ‘There is little to no appetite for that in this administration,’ one defense official explained.” Eradicating terrorism calls for more than a tepid response. Our next president will now face a problem that’s been multiplied.

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