In Brief

MPs attack David Cameron over rise of Islamic State in Libya

Former prime minister accused of 'lacking a coherent strategy', leading to a political and security vacuum

A damning UK parliamentary report has severely criticised former prime minister David Cameron over his role in the intervention in Libya which led to the overthrow of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and the rise of Islamic State in the region.

The Foreign Affairs Committee has accused Cameron of "lacking a coherent strategy for the air campaign", and says the "intervention had not been 'informed by accurate intelligence'".

"The political and security vacuum, created by the UK and France, has allowed Islamist groups to take root in the country," says Sky News.

The committee, which has a majority of Conservative members, based the report on evidence given by senior ministers and other "key players, such as Tony Blair, the chief of the defence staff Lord Richards and leading diplomats", The Guardian says.

The report found that the focus of the intervention by France, Britain and the US, had strayed from its original intent, which was "the urgent need to protect civilians in Benghazi".

"This meant that a limited intervention to protect civilians drifted into an opportunist policy of regime change by military means," it said.

Cameron, who stood down as an MP on Monday, reportedly refused to give evidence to the committee.

British special forces in action in Libya, says local commander

26 May 2016

British special forces carried out an attack on an Islamic State target in Libya earlier this month, according to a local commander.

This is the first evidence that British troops have a combat role against the terrorist group in the country, says The Times. A leaked memo in March revealed that SAS troops had been there since the beginning of the year.

Speculation has since spread that the government is preparing to deploy ground troops in Libya, which descended into chaos after the ousting of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

A Foreign Office spokesperson said last month that no such plans were in place and that the UK was only focused on training local forces to provide their own security.

But Libyan Commander Mohammed Durat told the Times: "The Americans and English are working here together helping us.

"My unit works just with the English. I have met with them personally and they have destroyed two suicide vehicles that were targeting my fighters," he added.

The missile, fired by either the SAS or the SBS, reportedly struck a vehicle carrying explosives as it approached the strategic city of Misrata on 12 May.

The Ministry of Defence says it does not comment on special forces operations.

"The disclosure has prompted claims from MPs that parliament was being bypassed over Britain's role in the civil war," says The Times.

Conservative MP Crispin Blunt, the chairman of the foreign affairs committee, yesterday warned that "the convention that we don't comment on special forces operations or seek parliamentary authorisation will be undermined if they are used as conventional forces".

US ready to arm Libyan forces to fight Islamic State

17 May

The US and other world powers are prepared to arm Libya's UN-backed unity government to help in the fight against Islamic State, US Secretary of State John Kerry has announced.

The plan is expected to bolster support for Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and the Government of National Accord (GNA) as the sole legitimate authority in Libya, and comes after senior diplomats from the US, Europe and the Middle East met in Vienna last week.

"The GNA is the only entity that can unify the country," said Kerry, although he acknowledged that a "delicate balance" had to be found to prevent arms falling into the wrong hands.

The US also reportedly used the summit to put pressure on the Egyptian government and United Arab Emirates to stop supporting General Khalifa Haftar, a military leader in Tobruk who refuses to acknowledge the GNA as a legitimate government.

The West would like to see Haftar link up with the GNA, which is based in Tripoli, ideally by agreeing to work under a unified military command, says The Guardian.

Any moves by world powers to provide arms to Libya would require approval from the UN Sanctions Committee, as Libya is currently subject to an arms embargo.

However, the BBC says the Libyan government's formal request for an exemption "signals that they have been given assurances that it would soon be approved".

IS currently controls the Mediterranean port of Sirte and has gained territory in government-held areas in recent weeks.

The announcement comes as European countries are particularly concerned about the number of migrants and refugees attempting to make the dangerous journey from Libya to Italy.

Will British combat troops be deployed to Libya?

21 April

Prime Minister David Cameron is preparing to join leaders from the US, Germany, France and Italy at a G5 meeting in Hamburg.

The ongoing conflict in Libya is expected to top the agenda, as is the fight against Islamic State, the war in Syria and the worsening refugee crisis engulfing Europe.

The summit on Monday comes amid "mounting speculation" that Britain is preparing to deploy troops to Libya, which remains in a state of political and social turmoil, the Daily Telegraph reports.

What is the current situation in Libya?

The north African state has descended into chaos since the UK and its Nato allies helped to overthrow Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, with rival governments and militias fighting for control of the country and Islamic State extremists taking advantage of the power vacuum. The ongoing instability means the country remains a key route for refugees and migrants making their way to Europe.

Libya currently has three rival governments, two in Tripoli, and one in the east of the country. A unity government set up with the help of the United Nations in December enjoys the support of Western nations, but it has "struggled to impose its authority", says the New York Times.

"Western countries hope that the new government, led by Prime Minister Fayez Serraj, can become a unifying force that will help combat IS and stop the boats of migrants that are using Libya as a launching point," the newspaper adds.

What will the talks focus on?

US President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Italy's Matteo Renzi will join Cameron for a "hastily-arranged" summit, says Politics Home.

Officials say there is no set schedule, but Downing Street expects "defeating Daesh [IS], supporting a new Government in Libya and tackling migration to dominate the agenda". 

The issue of Libya could be somewhat awkward for the British and US leaders after Obama recently accused Cameron of being "distracted" by domestic priorities while Libya descended into chaos. The PM responded by saying "everyone has to take responsibility" for what happened in the country. Obama is likely to use the meeting to "smooth diplomatic feathers", says The Guardian.

Are we likely to see British boots on the ground?

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon recently said the spread of IS in Libya poses a "direct threat" to Britain and that the UK must do "everything possible" to stabilise the country. "We have every interest in securing the security of a stable Libya," he added.

Following an unannounced trip to Tripoli earlier this week to show support for the new government, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond played down reports of military involvement saying there was no appetite among Libyans for British boots on the ground.

He said no request or talks on such a military deployment have taken place, but added that the UK "would consider the idea if it is proposed and indicated MPs would be allowed a vote", says the Telegraph.

Washington, meanwhile, will not be offering up any troops. "It insists that Europe take the lead in fixing Libya's post-conflict problems," says The Guardian. The newspaper reports that Cameron is now under growing pressure to "come clean" over the rumoured military plans.

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