The head of the Libyan National Army, Field Marshal Khalifa Hafter, has said that the UN arms embargo is stopping the defeat of the so-called Islamic State.
“We have only light arms. We need heavy arms. If we have those arms there will be no more Daesh [in Libya]”, he said in an interview broadcast yesterday by French TV channel M6.
The arms embargo was unjust, he added, and could not be respected or accepted. By holding to it, the international community was in effect simply taking a neutral position in battle against the terrorists in the country. “If the embargo remains, if the world remains in the position of a spectator, we too will [be forced to] remain just spectators of Daesh”.
The call is unlikely to be heeded. While Moscow is thought to be sympathetic to ending the embargo in order to crush IS in Libya, others on the Security Council are not. They have taken the line that the embargo will only end when the Government of National Accord is approved and in full control of the Libyan military.
However, Hafter’s demand comes just after his forces have finally managed to take Benghazi’s Gwarsha district. It is noticeable that, with it, there has been a softening of their previous opposition to him by some of Libya’s western allies.
Three days ago, at the time of the Gwarsha capture, US special envoy Jonathan Winer tweeted: “Tough sacrifices by #Libya National Army soldiers this week reported – 20 killed & 40 injured in counter terror fighting in Benghazi. In similar vein, UK ambassador Peter Millett tweeted: “The #Libya-n National Army liberates #Benghazi’s Quwarsha from #Daesh & #AnsaralSharia. Condolences to the families of LNA martyrs.”
But, even if and when the militants are finally crushed in both Benghazi and in Sirte, it is thought that this will not be the end of the matter.
Officials in Misrata say that many IS supporters managed to escape Sirte and are now regrouping elsewhere.