France must recognize its role in Libya’s plight

EU should become a real neutral actor and play a role in mediating the lon and exhausting Libyan crisis. France could and should help in this.


French interventionism and interference in domestic Libyan affairs goes back decades—to the 1940s, when France tried to take and keep control of the southern Libyan province of Fezzan, where it had economic and military interests. Kept at bay by the regime of Moammar Gadhafi for more than forty years, France, in 2011 under President Nicolas Sarkozy, seized the chance offered by the first revolts in Benghazi to recover its long-lost position in Libya by immediately siding with the rebels. Paris soon became the most intransigent power in international efforts to foster negotiations between the Gadhafi regime and the leadership of the revolutionaries. From the beginning of the conflict, France was obviously in favor of NATO’s intervention in Libya leading to regime change. The result of this policy is clearly visible: What has ensued is almost ten years of conflict and social distress.


Having completely failed in its attempts to control and guide the Libyan revolution in the direction it desired, France de facto withdrew from the North African country by the end of 2012. France then returned in late 2014 when, partially to gain credit with its most important defense-industry client, the United Arab Emirates, it threw its weight behind the Egyptian- and UAE-sponsored warlord Khalifa Haftar, a former Gadhafi-era general who defected in the late 1980s. Despite France’s official claims to the contrary, French troops were present in Libya training and assisting Haftar’s forces. The crash of a French military helicopter near Benghazi in 2016, which killed three members of France’s special-operations forces, provided solid evidence confirming what until then were only rumors of French involvement.

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