This week, Western powers opted to loosen their policies toward Libya in order to support the Government of National Accord (GNA) and combat the expansion of ISIS. At a meeting in Vienna on 16 May, the US and its European and regional partners agreed to supply the GNA with weapons, aimed at preventing ISIS fighters and rival militias from further making further gains. The group issued a joint communique approving exemptions to the current UN arms embargo to allow military sales and aid to the GNA. The communique said that while the broader embargo will remain in place, the group is “ready to respond to the Libyan government’s requests for training and equip[ment].”
At the same time, France and Britain are preparing a UN resolution that would authorize EU ships in the Mediterranean to intercept vessels suspected of carrying illegal weapons shipments to Libya. The EU’s Operation Sophia would be tasked with enforcing the current UN arms embargo. The EU is also looking at providing support to Libya’s coast guard in an effort to increase operations to combat migrant smugglers in the country’s coastal waters.
According to a Washington Post report on 12 May, US Special Operations troops have been stationed at two outposts in eastern and western Libya since late 2015. Two “contact teams” totalling fewer than 25 troops are operating from around the cities of Misrata and Benghazi to identify potential allies and gather intelligence, in parallel to the activities of Special Forces from France and other European nations in the same areas.
On 13 May, the US Treasury Department sanctioned Aguila Saleh, the president of the Libyan House of Representatives. Acting OFAC Director John E. Smith said Saleh has blocked the formation the GNA and “is responsible for stalling political progress in Libya. Today’s action sends a clear message that the US Government will continue to target those who undermine the peace, security, and stability of Libya.”