THE UK and French-led invasion of Libya in March 2011 that led to the removal of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was based on ‘erroneous assumptions,’ according to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the British Parliament, which said former Prime Minister David Cameron was ultimately responsible for the ensuing chaos in the country.
‘We have seen no evidence that the UK government carried out a proper analysis of the nature of the rebellion in Libya,’ the report said.
The pretext for the invasion was to protect civilians from forces loyal to Gaddafi.
But the inquiry, which took evidence from key figures, including former Prime Minister Tony Blair, military chiefs and academics, found that the British government ‘failed to identify that the threat to civilians was overstated and that the rebels included a significant Islamist element.’
The report added, ‘A policy which had intended to protect civilians drifted towards regime change and was not underpinned by strategy to support and shape post-Gaddafi Libya.
‘The consequence was political and economic collapse, inter-militia and inter-tribal welfare, humanitarian and migrant crises, widespread human rights violations and the growth of ISIL [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] in North Africa.’
The Committee echoes criticisms earlier by US President Barack Obama of the failure by the UK and France to have ready plans to deal with the removal of Gaddafi.
Committee Chairman Crispin Blunt MP said the 2011 intervention ‘was founded on erroneous assumptions and an incomplete understanding of the country and the situation.’
He pointed out that ‘other political options were available’ adding, ‘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,’ Blunt said.
‘The UK’s actions in Libya were part of an ill-conceived intervention, the results of which are still playing out today,’ he went on.
‘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.’
Libya was the first test of the National Security Council (NSC), a cabinet committee established by Cameron to oversee national security, intelligence co-ordination and defence strategy and intended to provide a formal mechanism to shape foreign policy decision making.
In contrast to the relatively informal process under Blair, since criticised by the Iraq Inquiry, minutes were taken at every NSC meeting on Libya, documenting Cameron’s decision-making process.
One of disastrous outcomes of the invasion was the failure to secure Gaddafi’s huge weapons arsenal, which fell into the hands of extremists who have used them to create mayhem in North and West Africa, especially Mali.
On the whole, the Committee said the Libya debacle was down to a failure of strategy.
‘We recognise that the damaging experience of post-war intervention in Iraq engendered an understandable reluctance to impose solutions in Libya. However, because the UK along with France led the military intervention, it had a particular responsibility to support Libyan economic and political reconstruction, which became an impossible task because of the failure to establish security on the ground,’ the report said.