US Defense Secretary Ash Carter believes intervention should come after there is agreement on the GNA . Military intervention would then be approved by the GNA and would be justified:
I’m certain they will want help and the international community will help.We fully expect that when — which we hope is soon — a government is formed in Libya, it will welcome not just the United States but the coalition. The coalition will no doubt include the UK and France — both already have special forces operating in Libya. However Carter also mentioned Italy as offering to take the lead and that the U.S. promised it would strongly support Italy. Italy has already agreed to let armed drones launch attacks on Libya from a base In Sigonella Sicily. Foreign military intervention in Libya is already well under way.
In a recent article, Jason Pack a researcher of Middle Eastern history, who has written numerous articles on Libya, suggests the GNA project has been in effect derailed. Pack argues that the dramatic gains by the Libyan National Army have brought the UN-mediated political solution to a halt. Pack calls recent military successes a tectonic shift. The result, he claims, is that international players are willing to support a number of militias whom he claims think they can conquer the whole country. For some reason Pack does not mention Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the Libyan National Army. Haftar forces are not just a militia but the armed forces of the recognized government. Pack also fails to mention that many of the actions of the LNA are part of Operation Dignity, started by Haftar back in May of 2014 and designed to rid Libya of Islamists including those associated with the rival General National Congress(GNC) based in Tripoli. However, Pack may be right that western governments are co-ordinating with local power brokers to fight ISIS and other extremists. However some of these other extremists are members of the Benghazi Shura Council supported by the GNC.
Western governments appear to some extent to co-ordinate with both sides. The bombing of an Islamic State facility in Sabratha was applauded by the GNC who may have been informed of the attack while the HoR condemned the attack as not being cleared with the internationally-recognized government. The recent military successes have not just been by Haftar and his forces but revolutionary forces in Sabratha defeated the Islamic State there after the US bombings. The Shura Council of Derna successfully drove the Islamic State out of Derna and has been fighting with them outside the city and nearby mountains.
Pack claims negotiations last week among Martin Kobler, Faiez Serraj, and Ageelah Saleh resulted in a proposal to hold a 130-member vote by the HoR but just on the Libya Political Agreement (LPA) rather than on a list of ministers as happened at the last vote on February 23. The session ended without a vote. Some claim it was because there was no quorum, others that it was due to disruption by about 10 opponents. Martin Kobler is the Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) of the UN in Libya. Serraj is the prime minister-designate of the GNA, and Ageelah Saleh is the president of the HoR. According to the LPA the GNA must provide a list of members of the GNA to be approved as well as an outline of its political program. The proposal would not be a vote of confidence in the GNA so it would not even get the GNA up and running. In any event the scheme was torpedoed just recently with Saleh said to tell Kobler that no vote will be held on the March 1 on the LPA. Indeed, there is no word when the next HoR vote will be held. It could have been held today.
Pack suggests that Kobler is not facing reality and notes that he and supporters are trying to continue to “patch up the process.” Some GNA supporters in the HoR are considering a meeting in the desert oasis town of Al Jufra. Apparently, Kobler expressed a wish to travel south. He called on Tripoli authorities to facilitate this. I do not know why Tripoli authorities would be involved since the area is not under control of the GNC as far as I know.
Pack claims the UN plans are “being overtaken by events” in that there are already plans being made to confront the Islamic State without any authorization from the GNA. Pack claims local sources say Mahdi Al Barghathi, the proposed GNA minister of defense; Salem Juha, former high Misrata military commander; and Bashir Budhafira of the Ajdabiya border guard, along with other fighters, plan to retake Sirte. Pack claims it is likely that these forces will be co-ordinated by US/UK special forces. Pack concludes:
These developments signal that the ‘military approach’ to countering IS in Libya is now trumping the UN’s completely failed ‘political approach’. And yet this ‘military approach’ is being stood up before a genuine anti-ISIS coalition is formed — therein lies the big pitfall as given actors may well use arms and training from Western actors against their traditional adversaries rather than fighting ISIS.
The UN is unlikely to give up on the GNA. Too much time, effort, and commitments have already been invested. Many of the military actions described by Pack may be preparatory for a later larger military operation that is obviously being planned. Bombings may help to weaken the Islamic State but so far they have been quite limited. The RAF is carrying out surveillance missions. While at present the UN has been unable to force through approval of the GNA, it will no doubt keep trying to do so. However, the longer the failure of the UN to have the GNA approved and then up and running in Tripoli, the more the west may decide to intervene militarily without approval of the GNA. While both present governments claim to oppose military intervention they have in effect allowed it and will no doubt allow more.