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Britain has discreetly deployed military advisers to Libya in order to build an army to fight Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant cells in the country, The Sunday Telegraph has been told.
Special forces commandos are said to be working alongside their US counterparts in the city of Misrata to stop the jihadists’ progress in the lawless terrain across the sea from Italy.
Even as diplomats in Washington, London and European capitals push for the formation of a unity government in Libya, US military operatives have begun “giving tactical training” to select local militias, Western officials, US congressional aides and sources on the ground have revealed.
The British government has refused to comment on whether it also has special forces soldiers on the ground in Libya, where David Cameron gave enthusiastic backing to the armed uprising five years ago that unseated Colonel Gaddafi.
But Western officials said a “small number” of British troops were present on a low-key mission, confirmed by sources in the city, who said they were “very much in the background”.
Western efforts in Libya have publicly centered on finding a political solution to the country’s civil war that would unite rival factions under a single national governing structure.
But as the peace talks stall, with hardliners from rival political factions sabotaging the voting process to enact the new national sovereign leadership, Western powers are struggling to find a viable solution for tackling Isil. Some reports say the terror group now has anything up to 5,000 fighters in Col Gaddafi’s home city of Sirte on the Mediterranean coast
Under a plan disclosed late last year, Britain was to offer the new Libyan government 1,000 troops as part of a 5,000-strong combined package with Italy, the former colonial power, enagaged in training and equipping Libyan forces rather than frontline fighting.
However, with many Libyans reluctant to have foreign soldiers on their soil, the troops are only likely to be sent if they have a formal invitation from a properly-constituted and publicly-accepted new Libyan government.
With that still looking like a somewhat distant prospect, Western capitals are considering more immediate options to quell Isil in Libya before it grows too strong.
Those appear to involve special forces working with local militias on the ground in both Misrata and Benghazi, either side of Sirte.
Two analysts with close connections to Western governments said that “low level training” of rebels had been taking place in recent weeks.
Jonathan Powell, the UK Special Envoy to Libya, last month hinted at the possibility of a more immediate train-and-equip programme to fight Isil, using fighters hardened in battle during Libya’s 2011 revolution.
Speaking to the Commons earlier this month, he said: “There are a number of armed groups there sitting next to Isil who have the capacity to deal with it. But they need to be united and have a common cause if they are to do something.”
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تاريخ التسجيل : 08/04/2011
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