Intense and earnest coordination between Libya’s neighboring states, particularly Egypt and Algeria as the two most influential, is the key to limit the growth of affiliate militants of the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group in Libya after their ongoing decline in Syria and Iraq.
Bordering Libya, both Egypt and Algeria see that IS growth in Libya as a new incubator after their decline in Syria and Iraq poses a direct threat to their national security and to the Arab world.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and his Algerian counterpart Abdelkader Messahel met in Cairo on Wednesday for further coordination over political settlement and future plans to bring rival Libyan factions together for peace talks.
“Libya will be the incubator of such terror groups after their activities declined in Syria and Iraq and they will gradually try to reach other neighboring countries,” Egypt’s former foreign minister Mohamed al-Orabi told Xinhua.
He warned that IS may expand from Libya to vulnerable southern neighboring states like Chad, Niger and Mali to create some kind of “connected belt” of affiliate militants covering the area between Somalia and Nigeria and threatening the security of Libya itself, Egypt, Algeria and others.
“Therefore, Egyptian-Algerian coordination is a must as they are two influential states and their coordination will limit the growth of IS and its affiliates in Libya who would try to stir up further disorder in the region,” said the Egyptian ex-minister, also a member of a parliament committee for foreign relations.
Libya has been engaged in a civil war since the 2011 ouster and death of former leader Muammar Gaddafi, which eventually divided the war-torn country into two governments, a UN-backed one in Tripoli and a parliament-backed, military-oriented one in Tobruk.
Tobruk’s government was internationally recognized before the Presidential Council (PC) was established in 2015 to run a unity government in Tripoli as per a UN-brokered peace deal between Libyan factions reached in Skhirat, Morocco.
Supported by self-proclaimed Libyan national army led by Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar, the government in Tobruk refuses to recognize the Tripoli-based unity government known as the Government of National Accord (GNA).
Both Cairo and Algiers hosted several meetings between Libyan opponents and led several ministerial meetings of Libya’s neighboring states in a bid to resolve the conflict.
“There are various strong fields of coordination between Egypt and Algeria in this regard, including political, information and security cooperation,” said retired general Sameh Abu-Hashima, a professor of national strategy and military sciences at Cairo-based Nasser Supreme Military Academy.
The security expert explained that politically the two countries have great abilities to communicate with Libyan rivals and also to coordinate with world powers like the United States and Russia to push for Libyan unity.
Egypt’s Western Desert witnessed a terrorist attack that killed at least 21 soldiers in July 2014. Later in February 2015, IS militants released a video showing the beheading of 20 Egyptians near the Libyan chaotic city of Sirte.
Since May, the Egyptian air forces destroyed at least 42 vehicles loaded with weapons, ammunition and explosives before they infiltrate into Egypt via its western borders with Libya.
“In terms of information and security cooperation, both Egypt and Algeria have the ability to deal with terrorists and they can exchange information on terror elements that hinder inter-Libya national reconciliation via communication with Libyan factions and tribes,” Abu-Hashima told Xinhua.
More world attention has been paid to fighting terrorism in Syria and Iraq than in Libya, before France and Italy have recently exerted earnest efforts to pave the way for a settlement in Libya as a basic step for regional stability as well as international security.
France managed earlier in July to rarely bring face to face Libya’s two main rivals Fayez al-Sarraj, head of Tripoli-based government, and military chief Haftar who is backed by Tobruk’s government, which is undoubtedly a positive leap in the issue.
“The U.S.-led anti-terror alliance cares only about illegal migration from Libya, unlike the Egyptian vision that targets international crackdown on all terror groups alike, whether in Syria, Iraq or Libya,” said former foreign minister Orabi.
Supported by France, Italy and Germany that are mainly concerned with illegal migration and militant infiltration to Europe, the peacemaking efforts of Egypt, Algeria and also Tunisia can invest the recent Sarraj-Haftar talks in Paris to push for a Libyan agreement.
“I believe world attention to Libya will grow in the coming period, with Egypt and Algeria as key regional players for a Libyan settlement,” Orabi told Xinhua.