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Hicham Felter

Hicham Felter works for Bonneville Associates as International Communications and Public Affairs consultant.

Daesh, or ISIS, is a terrorist organisation which needs no introduction. It’s a barbaric organisation that commits heinous crimes across the world. Continuously underestimated as a threat by many and gaining strength with every passing day. They have affiliated groups in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Somalia and now a base Libya. They are not only a threat to peace and security but also to world heritage.

A Libyan friend posted a photo album entitled “for the love of Sabratha (2009) before it gets destroyed by ISIS”, a stark reminder of the evil that lurks our world. Sabratha dates back to the 5th century BC, and was a Phoenician trading post that served as a gateway to Africa. Unesco designated it as world heritage site in 1982.

We all have seen the reports on what was done to Palmyra, Nimrud and Harta at the hands of Daesh in Iraq. These are irreplaceable treasures and they have all been destroyed, in addition to the other atrocities they (and Assad) have committed.

Iraq, Syria and Libya will someday return to some kind of peace. What hope is there for their economies and their tourist industries if we continue to allow Daesh to smash up their cultural heritage? What will the generation of the future have left? We need to stop this evil, and the international community must work harder to keep world heritage safe for future generations. This heritage was entrusted to us by previous generations for safekeeping; we must keep the remainder of these sites safe for future generations to learn from and enjoy.

More attention must also be paid to the situation with Daesh in Libya. The vacuum of power that was left after the fall of Gaddafi, and the accompanying weak institutions (military, police, judicial and governmental), have created an ideal situation that Daesh is taking full advantage of. Libya is becoming a failed state and a hotbed of islamic extremist activity. Daesh now have full control over Sirte (Gaddafi’s home town) along with about 120 miles of coastline. As recent reports have suggested, Daesh have well and truly established a satellite colony in Libya. According to sources, the organisation is reinforcing its position in the town of Nofaliya, which is only about 25 miles away from the main Libyan oil terminal, and they are in control of Sabratha, which is only 25 miles away from Tripoli.

Controlling populated territory and oil production is the source of the lion’s share of Daesh funding. From populated areas they impose taxation, extortion, rent from business, fines for breaking the law and in some cases income tax.

Gaining access to oil terminals in Libya will also generate great funding for Daesh in Libya. Libya is surrounded by states such as Algeria, Tunisia, Niger, Chad, Sudan and Egypt. Most of these states barely control their own territory, giving access to a larger market for the terrorist group to sell its oil. In a few months, this situation will become catastrophic – unless the Libyans are given adequate help to establish security, peace and stability. The West needs to help the Libyans build their future. This requires us to invest in a long tern strategy. What Libya needs is help in rebuilding and training its military, its police and its judiciary to secure Libya from external threats, take on Daesh, enforce the law and prevent extremists using the country as their. Success in Libya will only be achieved with a long term strategy that is not beholden to Western electoral cycles or opinion polls.

It is only now that the west is waking up the fact that Daesh in Libya is a danger. As it stands there is merely talk of doing something about the problem. It seems there is a lack of urgency, strategy and understanding of the enemy on the part of western policy makers. Daesh is clearly not as Obama declared ‘Al Qaeda’s JV team’ and they are certainly not ‘contained’. Western efforts have all been targeted to dealing with Daesh in the Middle East from the air – the most ineffective way. The fight should be taken to Daesh wherever they might appear. After all, we must not forget how close European shores are to Libya, and how dangerous the situation could become if left unattended for too long.

19 comments for: Hicham Felter: When will we wake up to the ISIS threat in Libya?

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