Britain’s 2011 military intervention in Libya, ordered by former prime minister David Cameron, relied on flawed intelligence and hastened the North African country’s political and economic collapse, lawmakers said on Wednesday in a damning report.
Britain and France led international efforts to help oust Libya’s then-leader Muammar Gaddafi in early 2011, using fighter jets to beat back Gaddafi’s armies and allow rebels to topple the longtime dictator.
But Libya has since suffered years of chaos. The Islamic State group has gained a foothold, former rebels still fight over territory and people smugglers have set up a huge operation, sending tens of thousands on the perilous sea journey to Europe.
Cameron, who ran Britain from 2010 until July, had a “decisive” role in the decision to intervene and must bear the responsibility for Britain’s role in the crisis in Libya, a report produced by parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee said.
“The UK’s actions in Libya were part of an ill-conceived intervention, the results of which are still playing out today,” said committee chairman Crispin Blunt, a member of Cameron’s Conservative party.
“UK policy in Libya before and since the intervention of March 2011 was founded on erroneous assumptions and an incomplete understanding of the country and the situation.”
The committee’s statement said the “ultimate responsibility rests with David Cameron’s leadership”.
The report also blamed former French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s government for hastening the operation and using inaccurate information about the immediate danger faced by civilians at the time.
It cited conversations between an advisor to then US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and French intelligence officers, who claimed that Sarkozy pushed for a military operation in order to gain a greater share of Libyan oil production and for political self-interest.
The report said an additional factor that could have induced the intervention was providing “the French military with an opportunity to reassert its position in the world”.
Cameron and Sarkozy posed triumphantly alongside the leader of Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) Mustafa Abdul-Jalil in the city of Benghazi on September 15, 2011, hailing the success of the military intervention.
Earlier this year, US President Barack Obama said European allies had become distracted from the Libyan crisis after the intervention. Obama’s office later said he had not intended to be critical of Cameron.
Cameron stepped down as prime minister after losing a referendum to keep Britain in the European Union, and on Monday resigned as a member of parliament saying he did not want to become a distraction for his successor Theresa May.
The report said his government failed to identify from intelligence reports that the threat to civilians was overstated and that the rebels included a significant Islamist element.
The post-intervention response was also lacking, it said.
“Our lack of understanding of the institutional capacity of the country stymied Libya’s progress in establishing security on the ground and absorbing financial and other resources from the international community,” Blunt said.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
Date created : 2016-09-14