Published On : Thursday, September 15 2016
David Cameron’s “ill-conceived” military intervention in Libya led to the rise of Islamic State in North Africa according to a scathing report from MPs.
The former Prime Minister took the country to war against Col Muammar Gaddafi on a series of “erroneous assumptions” and then drifted into an “opportunistic” policy of regime change that left Libya in chaos.
Attacking Mr Cameron’s leadership, MPs accuse him of misunderstanding what was happening on the ground, and doing too little to find a political way to get the dictator to stand down.
The Government launched air strikes after exaggerated threats that Col Gaddafi was about to massacre civilians in Benghazi, and failed to spot significant numbers of Islamist extremists were among the rebels, MPs say.
The report from the influential Commons foreign affairs committee comes just days after Mr Cameron stepped down as an MP and attacks an intervention he once claimed as a foreign policy triumph.
Barack Obama earlier this year criticised Mr Cameron for becoming distracted after the Libya intervention and allowing the country to become a “s*** show”.
The MPs conclude: “It is difficult to disagree with this pithy assessment.”
The 49-page report finds Britain in fact had no plan for what to do once Col Gaddafi was gone.
It says: “The result was political and economic collapse, inter-militia and inter-tribal warfare, humanitarian and migrant crises, widespread human rights violations, the spread of Gaddafi regime weapons across the region and the growth of [Islamic State] in North Africa.”
David Cameron was “ultimately responsible” for the failure in strategy.
Crispin Blunt MP, Tory chairman of the committee, said the intervention was “very much Mr Cameron’s production”.
He said: “The UK’s actions in Libya were part of an ill-conceived intervention, the results of which are still playing out today.”
UK policy before and after military action began in March 2011 was “founded on erroneous assumptions and an incomplete understanding of the country and the situation,” he said.
“Other political options were available. Political engagement might have delivered civilian protection, regime change and reform at a lesser cost to the UK and Libya.
“The UK would have lost nothing by trying these instead of focusing exclusively on regime change by military means.”
The inquiry, which took evidence from figures including Lord Hague, Dr Liam Fox, Tony Blair, military chiefs and academics, says Libya has since become a haven for Islamic State militants.
As well as seizing bases in Sabratha, Derna and Sirte, they have also trained terrorists such as Seifeddine Rezgui who massacred British holiday makers in Sousse last year.
Col Gaddafi spent £30bn on weapons including anti aircraft missiles during his reign and stowed many of them in warehouses.
By failing to secure these stockpiles in 2011, the West allowed arms to get into the hands of terrorist groups across North Africa.
Britain and its allies “inability to secure weapons abandoned by the Gaddafi regime fuelled instability in Libya and enabled and increased terrorism across North and West Africa and the Middle East”, the report says.
As the one of the leaders of the coalition, Britain had a "particular responsibility" to support Libyan reconstruction but the failure to establish security of on the ground meant it was an "impossible task".
The MPs warn the international community must now get behind the United Nations-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) to prevent the country descending into all-out civil war.
What does Islamic State want?Play! 01:33
But they caution that while British troops could help train Libyan forces they should not be sent if they would inflame anti Western feeling or be an easy target for Islamic State.
A Foreign Office spokesman said the decision to intervene in Libya was an international one, called for by the Arab League and authorised by the UN Security Council.
"Muammar Gaddafi was unpredictable and he had the means and motivation to carry out his threats," the spokesman said.
"His actions could not be ignored and required decisive and collective international action. Throughout the campaign we stayed within the United Nations mandate to protect civilians.
"After four decades of Gaddafi misrule, Libya undoubtedly faces huge challenges. The UK will continue to play a leading role within the international community to support the internationally recognised Libyan Government of National Accord."