As the nation braced for the possibility of new military action against the Islamic State in Iraq, a House panel heard Wednesday that Libya is also spiraling into a failed state and a potential staging ground for Islamist terrorists.
Militias there have shown interest in IS and its goal of creating a worldwide caliphate after plunging the country into renewed fighting three years after U.S. airstrikes helped overthrow Moammar Gadhafi, according to testimony by a senior State Department official before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration is deeply concerned that weapons and fighters flowing through the increasingly chaotic North African country could end up on the battlefields in Iraq and Syria, said Ambassador Gerald Feierstein, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs.
The U.S. closed its embassy in Tripoli this summer as Libya’s government splintered and the country descended into battles between Islamist-leaning groups and other militias. At the end of a recent NATO summit in Wales, the Obama administration and member countries agreed to press for a cease-fire and a political solution to the crisis.
“It is going to be a long-term problem that is going to require a long-term commitment from the United States,” Feierstein said.
So far, he said militias such as the Dawn of Libya, which claimed last month that it had seized a U.S. Embassy residence in Tripoli, have not made any real movement toward joining IS, which seized large swaths of Iraq in a violent blitz in recent months.