This farce is illustrative of the utter breakdown of Libya as a whole. Any pretence that Libya cohered as a single country was shattered along with the government that was bombed off the face of the earth in 2011.
In 2011 NATO rained bombs on Libya to remove the Gaddafi government from power. Openly backing known terrorists in their push to oust Gaddafi, the NATO powers, led by Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy, ended up supporting, fostering and equipping battle-hardened jihadis that they then sent off as a proxy army to begin the destabilization of Syria. But now that proxy army is coming home to roost, with recent reports claiming as many as 6,500 Islamic State fighters are operating in Libya.
So of course the US has responded to this mess in the only way it knows how: sending more troops. Well, to be more accurate, the troops have been there for half a year, but the government is just now getting around to announcing their presence...via an anonymous leak in the Washington Post, that is.
That's right, since late last year a team of US Special Operations commandos have been stationed in Libya in an attempt to "sort through the various factions and identify the potential recipients of American support in the future." In other words, the same US government that knowingly backed the crazy jihadis in the first place are now there to vet which groups to back in their fight against the crazy jihadis.
Appalled yet? Well the worst part isn't the special forces on the ground at the moment. It's not even the obligatory "regional powers" conference going on in Vienna that is likely to see thousands more troops sent to re-invade the country. Or even the fact that the US is now planning to break the UN's own embargo against sending arms to Libya as long as they double-dog swear the arms are only used for fighting ISIS.
No, the worst part is that there is arguably no "Libya" left to save even if the NATO vultures withdrew their talons and flew back to their cave. Since the murder of Gaddafi the country has descended into utter chaos. The "government" in Tripoli is a "government" in name only. In truth, it barely governs Tripoli, and the areas in the east are for all intents and purposes a separate country. This fundamental divide is perhaps best exemplified by the absolute insanity taking place at the country's central bank.
You might remember that one of the very first things the NATO-backed terrorists in Libya did after the fighting broke out was to found their own central bank in Benghazi. You might also know that the battle for control of the "legitimate" central bank and its $100 billion dollars in reserves has been one of the main struggles between the many warring factions in post-Gaddafi Libya, with rebel groups having seized the Benghazi branch early last year.
Well that struggle has descended into a complete farce, with the central bank's chief not having access to the bank's funds or even its own vault. The bank, headquartered in the east of the country, is not entirely trusted by the Tripoli-based government, and for good reason: the bank has provided funds to some of the very groups that are waging war with the nominal government. So the government in Tripoli has been sending the central bank a stipend of $23.5 million a month for its operating expenses (a fraction of the $257 million the bank claims to need). The central bank's vault contains an estimated $187 million in gold and silver which the bank says it desperately needs, but there's a catch; there is a five digit access code to enter the vault and the Tripoli government won't share it with the bank's own governor. So the bank has taken matters into its own hands: it has brought in a pair of safe crackers to help break into the bank's own vault.
This farce is illustrative of the utter breakdown of Libya as a whole. Any pretence that Libya cohered as a single country was shattered along with the government that was bombed off the face of the earth in 2011. That country may never exist again as anything other than the state-in-name-only that it has become in recent years.
But one thing is for certain: if Libya does survive and its people can once again find a way to live together it won't be due to the efforts of the US Special Forces or the powers-that-shouldn't-be and their Vienna conference or an agreement to end the arms embargo on the country. Outside interference caused the problem; it won't help to fix it.