Former president of the United States, Barack Obama, has said his “worst mistake” in his presidency was not planning for the aftermath of Muammar Gaddafi’s ouster. Obama was reflecting on his time in office on Fox News when he dropped the bombshell. Though he expressed regret over failing to plan for Libya after Gaddafi, he said the intervention was “the right thing to do”.
Speaking to Fox News anchor, Chris Wallace who had asked what Obama’s worst mistake was, he said, “Probably failing to plan for the day after, what I think was the right thing to do in intervening in Libya.”
This is not the first time Obama has opened up about his regrets regarding Libya. Speaking in an interview for the Atlantic, he said the U.S had planned to avoid a long-term military commitment in Libya as it was not at the core of U.S interests. He said his government had worked to get a UN mandate and built a coalition to prevent other countries from piggy-backing on U.S efforts. He regrettably then admitted that after all the meticulous efforts Libya was a mess. The magazine went as far as claiming that he calls it a “shit-show” in private.
Since the Libya intervention, the country has degenerated into the hub of anarchical politics. It is now ruled by rival militias trying to ascend to power yet the Islamic State is moving in. As it stands, Libya has two governments, one in Tripoli and the UN backed leadership domiciled in Torbuk. The leader of the UN backed unity government arrived earlier this month in Tripoli to begin garnering support for his government. The country, (like most Middle East countries the West has moved into for military reasons) is a monumental failure. Who is to blame? Obama has an answer, “When I go back and I ask myself what went wrong, there is room for criticism, because I had more faith in the Europeans, given Libya’s proximity, being invested in the follow-up.”
He essentially pinned a considerable amount of blame on British Prime Minister David Cameron and former French President, Nicolas Sakorzy. He said Cameron stopped paying attention and got “distracted by a range of other things”. Obama accused Sakorzy of wanting to trumpet the flights he was taking in the air campaign and bragging. Sakorzy was out to prove a point and he forgot the bigger picture.
Meanwhile, the Tripoli authorities announced they were ceding power to the UN backed government to “preserve the higher interests of the country and prevent bloodshed and divisions” in Libya.
“We inform you that we are ceasing the activities entrusted to us as an executive power,” read the statement they released. The National Salvation Government led by Khalifa Ghweil said the Tripoli prime minister, his deputies and cabinet ministers were all stepping aside. Libya’s two warring factions have run the country from Tripoli and Tobruk after a militia alliance installed its authority over the capital, forcing the internationally recognised parliament to flee to the remote east. The UN backed government sailed into Tripoli after their rivals closed down Tripoli’s airspace. Prime Minister designate, Fayez al-Sarraj and his six officials arrived quietly by boat in Libya from Tunisia. Their security bureau then threatened to send a list of 17 problematic figures to Interpol for “supporting terrorism” and impeding democratic transition. The Tripoli authorities have now capitulated having ceded power and the transition looks reasonably peaceful.
The Italian Foreign Minister, Paolo Gentiloni met the Libyan premier, Sarraj, describing the unity government as a game-changer. It is the first high-level visit by a Western official since 2014. The World Bank has held talks with Tunisia on ways to structure priorities. The diplomat said foreign embassies would be reopened in the capital in the near future. Sarraj has his work cut out for him but with foreign support, it is going to be a burden shared. General David Rodriguez, the commander of the United States military Africa Command recently said intelligence estimates the number of ISIS fighters in Libya is around four to six thousand which is probably double the number 12 to 18 months back. Sarraj will have to deal with this and human-traffickers who have made Libya their hub.
It is some consolation that the West seems to be back in the confines of reason again with Paolo Gentiloni asserting, “We can co-operate but cannot decide for the Libyans.”
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