David Cameron’s 2011 decision to intervene in Libya helped fuel the rise of ISIL and was based on flawed intelligence, an inquiry has found.
A report released today by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee gives a damning verdict on the Government’s actions, arguing there was no plan for what would happen once Colonel Gaddafi was ousted.
The committee also claims Cameron did not realise that many of the rebels he was ultimately helping were in fact Islamic fanatics, and his actions enabled ISIL to get a foothold in North Africa.
Parliament backed airstrikes against Gaddafi in March 2011 after the Libyan dictator tried to suppress an internal uprising sparked by the Arab Spring sweeping through North Africa and the Middle East.
The complaints over a lack of post-conflict planning, flawed intelligence and a misunderstanding of the situation on the ground echo the criticisms leveled at Tony Blair after the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The report said the decision to bomb Libya “was not informed by accurate intelligence.”
“The Government failed to identify that the threat to civilians was overstated and that the rebels included a significant Islamist element. By the summer of 2011, the limited intervention to protect civilians had drifted into an opportunist policy of regime change.
“That policy was not underpinned by a strategy to support and shape post-Gaddafi Libya. 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 ISIL in North Africa.”
The report adds: “David Cameron was ultimately responsible for the failure to develop a coherent Libya strategy.”
The civil unrest in Libya began in February 2011 in Benghazi, and Gaddafi quickly and brutally tried to suppress the uprising.
Later that month, following reports Gaddafi had been using his airforce to attack the rebels, Cameron began drafting up plans to enforce a no-fly zone over the country.
After initially being unable to secure EU backing for the plan, a UN Resolution creating a no-fly zone was approved in March 2011.
UK planes and submarines began bombing Libya in order to enforce the UN resolution and protect the country’s citizens from Gaddafi’s regime on March 19, with approval for military action coming from Parliament two days later.
Rebel forces captured the capital city of Tripoli in August, and in October 2011 Gaddafi himself was killed.
Libya is now ruled by two competing governments, and has been in a state of civil war since 2014.
Crispin Blunt, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said: “This report determines that 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.
“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.
“Having led the intervention with France, we had a responsibility to support Libyan economic and political reconstruction. But 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.
“The UK’s actions in Libya were part of an ill-conceived intervention, the results of which are still playing out today. The United Nations has brokered an inclusive Government of National Accord. If it fails, the danger is that Libya will sink into a full scale civil war to control territory and oil resources. The GNA is the only game in town and the international community has a responsibility to unite behind it.”