When the U.S. helped to oust Libya's dictator from power, supporters of the intervention included Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Susan Rice, Samantha Power, Nancy Pelosi, Marco Rubio, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Mark Kirk, Charles Krauthammer and Bill Kristol. In advance of Election 2016, when some of these people try to influence public debate and others vie to become president of the United States, let us continue to monitor the outcome of the war that they supported.
Nearly four years after the ouster of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, Libya’s warring cities and towns have become so entangled in internal conflicts over money and power that they have opened a door for the Islamic State to expand into the country’s oil-rich deserts and sprawling coastline. Libya has become a new frontier for the radical group as it comes under increasing pressure from American-led airstrikes on its original strongholds in Iraq and Syria. While other extremist organizations may have sought only to capitalize on the Islamic State’s fearsome name, the contingent here in Surt has not only taken over a major Libyan city but also demonstrated clear coordination with the parent organization, also known as ISIS or ISIL and based in Syria.
A recent video depicting the beheadings of Egyptian Christians kidnapped from Surt appeared to have been taped on the Libyan shoreline, but it also featured the parent group’s signature audiovisual sophistication, orange jumpsuits and ceremonial knives... That close cooperation so far sets the Islamic State group in Surt apart from the wave of other militants who have pledged allegiance to ISIS... But even after the international uproar over the video, no Libyan authority has been able to take any effective action against the group. Two warring coalitions of militias have divided the country, and each... appears more intent on fighting the other than on thwarting the Islamic State. What is more, the battles have crippled Libya’s oil exports so severely that there is now a risk that the country’s currency and economy will soon collapse.
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Conor Friedersdorf is a California-based staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.