Last week, General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, stated that ISIL/ISIS, “will only be defeated when we have a coalition in the region that takes on the task of defeating ISIS over time.” This is why actions taken against terrorists and insurgents in Libya are important.
The terror groups in Libya are just as much a threat to regional stability as ISIL is in Syria and Iraq. These groups have bombed and terrorized Libyans, halted economic development and government reform programs, and have allowed for the export of weapons and terror throughout the wider region – ultimately destabilizing the whole country.
These terrorists opened themselves to proverbial fire by the killing of 20 Egyptian soldiers. They have proven to the world that the troubles they may start are not bound by borders.
Luckily, there are many patriotic Libyans that are fighting back against these terrorists, and they have called for international support for their struggle.
The regional action in the Arab world that AP has reported, including airstrikes by Egypt and the UAE, is not just an important step in stabilizing Libya and destroying the terrorist groups, it also sets a precedent for the coalition called for by General Dempsey.
I have written before on the need for an Arab-style NATO – this Libya action could be the first step. But it must be supported by the wider international community and built upon to see its full potential.
Arabs should take the lead on fighting terrorism in the Arab world. Only Arabs can secure Arab lands and people for peace and prosperity. In order for this peace to happen, four key actions must be taken.
First, international support for actions in Libya should be encouraged. The state is collapsing in on itself and many analysts predict a long and brutal civil war. This conflict will not be contained within its borders, and it will become a breeding ground for wider violent terrorist movements. We must not allow this to happen. As noted, many senior Libyans officials have called for regional action to support the elimination of the terror threat. The wider international community should be applauding the regional actions taking place – and support further action by the UAE and Egypt.
Second, the coalition should be expanded. Egypt and the UAE cannot take on this burden alone. It is a pan-Arab, pan-Islam threat. These terrorists/insurgents/murderers are a threat to the entire region. As leading scholars have stated from the Grand Muftis of Egypt and Saudi Arabia to Islamic centers of studies around the world, groups such and those in Libya, Syria, and Iraq are a direct threat to Islam. Leading Arab countries such as Algeria, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Kuwait should be encouraged to join the action ridding Libya of the terrorist viper’s nest and helping to stabilize the country.
Let the Arab armies open the doors of recruitment – expanding and training their young populations. Doctors, nurses, and engineers should all be welcomed as the logistical bridge that will help the Arabs cross this abyss called terrorism.
Third, the terror group ISIL should be next on the coalition’s “hit list.” Libya is a good first step, but it is just that – a first step. This expanded Arab coalition should next approach the biggest threat facing the region – if not the world – ISIL. As I have written previously, ISIL is barbaric and violent. The brutal murder of journalist James Foley has shown the true realities of ISIL to an American audience; but throughout the region under their control, the unimaginable barbarism is even more prevalent. There have been mass beheadings and whole villages buried alive by ISIL. Rape is used as a weapon of control, and there have been reports of children being sexually abused and openly sold as slaves in villages throughout the ISIL region. A number of analysts estimate that ISIL has over $2 billion – yes, billion – in cash reserves and over 6 million people living under its control.
Only a wide Arab coalition can destroy the ISIL military. This coalition can have “boots on the ground,” show that Arab nations take the threat seriously, and take action against it. The coalition will need international support, especially in regards to intelligence and equipment. But it must be Arabs liberating their own land from the terrorists.
Finally, this military alliance should be formalized, brought into the open, and acknowledged as a long-term alliance. Serious thought and planning should begin immediately to turn this ad-hoc coalition into an Arab NATO, or what I have called, the Arab Security Coalition. Not only will this allow different countries’ militaries to synchronize their needs, requirements, and capabilities, it will also reinforce interoperability. It will make it more difficult for groups like ISIL to emerge easily. Most importantly, it will show that Arabs can secure their own land, maintain their own peace, and secure their own prosperity.