WASHINGTON D.C: The Obama administration and its European allies are weighing their options for greater involvement in Libya, including sanctions against warlords and an armed international force to help stabilize the North African country, diplomats said on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila).
With Egypt and the United Arab Emirates secretly cooperating in airstrikes in Libya in the last two weeks, diplomats will meet on Wednesday at the United Nations Security Council to consider joint action aimed at defusing the conflict before it grows worse and aggravates regionwide instability.
Fear of a broader Mideast struggle between supporters and foes of Islamist groups “is forcing some rethinking,” said a European diplomat who asked to remain unidentified, citing diplomatic sensitivities. “It seems clear we need to start doing something differently,” the diplomat added.
Some diplomats are looking at sending in an international force to help Libya’s paralyzed government become functional. US combat troops would not be involved, officials say.
The force, consisting of troops from a variety of nations, possibly under United Nations leadership, would seek to protect the central government and prevent marauding militias from interfering with its operations.
Western officials have been deeply reluctant to entertain the idea of sending a foreign force, fearful that it might be viewed as an invader.
But desperate Libyan officials have publicly asked for foreign military help this year, and US officials said they now are willing to consider the idea.
Officials also are looking at imposing economic sanctions and travel bans on Libyan militia leaders, especially those with families, bank accounts and business dealings in Europe, to pressure them to back down.
“If they think they might lose all of that, it could change their calculations,” said Mattia Toaldo, a London-based analyst with the European Council on Foreign Relations.
Diplomats and private experts acknowledge that the proposals face daunting obstacles, both because of Libya’s growing conflict and the limits of Western resources and interest.
The United States and Europe have tried to help Libya become a stable democracy since a North Atlantic Treaty Organization air war helped insurgents oust former ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Libya instead devolved into a semi-lawless state, with a patchwork of warring militias, some secular, some Islamist, or focused on tribal and local issues.