Monday, November 16, 2015

France Should Have Their Own Sector to Command in the War on ISIL

The French seem determined to react to the Paris slaughter like they are at war. Rather than escalate their fight in Iraq and Syria, France should take the lead in eliminating the ISIL presence in Libya and helping Libyans unify their country to keep jihadis under control.

So France will finally act like they are at war:

The defense ministers of France and the United States agreed Sunday on "concrete steps" to intensify cooperation against the Islamic State group, the Pentagon said.

France has struck already:

France launched "massive" air strikes on the Islamic State group's de-facto capital in Syria Sunday night, destroying a jihadi training camp and a munitions dump in the city of Raqqa, where Iraqi intelligence officials say the attacks on Paris were planned.

Twelve aircraft including 10 fighter jets dropped a total of 20 bombs in the biggest air strikes since France extended its bombing campaign against the extremist group to Syria in September, a Defense Ministry statement said. The jets launched from sites in Jordan and the Persian Gulf, in coordination with U.S. forces.

This "massive" effort is a rounding error in what we can do. What's the point other than to look like they are reacting to the Paris death toll? Did France strike targets we couldn't hit because we don't have enough military power in the area? I don't think so.

I think it is absolutely a mistake to react to the ISIL attack on Paris by simply increasing France's role in the Iraq-Syria front.

Given that France took the lead in overthrowing Khadaffi back in 2011 and endured the blowback from that war in Mali, where the French led a counter-attack in 2013 against jihadis who had taken over the northern part of Mali, it makes sense to me that France should take the lead in Libya where ISIL has carved out territory rather than up their role in the Iraq-Syria campaign from 3% of coalition air strikes to 5%--or whatever the actual small percentages might be.

We can handle the fight in Iraq and Syria with other allies--if we get a sense of urgency.

No, we should work with France to help them cobble an alliance together with Egypt--which just suffered from ISIL in the Sinai airliner bombing and the ongoing Sinai terrorism--and with Saudi Arabia--which bankrolls Egypt and which is already engaged in Yemen and Syria--in order to support Haftar's efforts in eastern Libya and enable these forces to push into central Libya where ISIL has staked out territory.

With French air power at sea with their aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean Sea and other planes operating from Italian territory, France could support an Egyptian ground force intervention from the east. French and other allied special forces would assist, too.

France could even assist with mobile forces sent into southwest Libya from the French troops scattered throughout northwestern Africa in order to help western-based Libyan forces clean up and secure that region.

If Libya can be settled down under non-jihadi control, the bad effects of post-Khadaffi chaos in Libya would be reduced. This would help stabilize northwest Africa and reduce an avenue for migrants heading north to Europe and tamp down a source of jihadi recruits.

France could take the lead in Libya, but in Iraq and Syria, France would just be a minor contributor to the main effort we lead. We should help France in such a Libya campaign with logistics and intelligence where they can strike a real blow against ISIL rather than encourage France to step up in Iraq and Syria.

UPDATE: We might get UN blessings for this mission:

All sides in Libya's conflict are committing breaches of international law that may amount to war crimes, including abductions, torture and the killing of civilians, the United Nations said on Monday.

Islamic State forces have gained and consolidated control over swathes of territory, "committing gross abuses including public summary executions of individuals based on their religion or political allegiance", said the joint report by the U.N. human rights office and U.N. Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).

And it would be nice to help non-jihadis win. And sooner rather than later.

But for now, France is rounding up the usual suspects at home:

Police raided homes of suspected Islamist militants across France overnight following Friday's Paris attacks, and a source close to the investigation said a Belgian national in Syria was the possible mastermind.

And don't forget to look around in the occupied territories. Tip to Instapundit.

UPDATE: Bombing ISIL in Syria is certainly appropriate as a short-term French response to the Paris attacks planned in ISIL's Syria stronghold:

They "were decided and planned in Syria, prepared and organised in Belgium and perpetrated on our soil with French complicity", he said.

In response, France would "intensify" operations in Syria, Hollande said a day after French jets pounded IS targets in the group's Syrian stronghold of Raqa, its first military response to the Paris carnage.

"We will continue the strikes in the weeks to come," Hollande told lawmakers.

But this really should be a weeks-long effort. What, I ask, is France attacking that we can't with our current resources? We don't need more planes dropping bombs. We need better rules of engagement, a better approach to the ground component, and a sense of urgency to get on with visibly smashing ISIL's caliphate, but we don't need a dozen more planes with the tricolor on their fuselages.

While France strikes back in Syria, I hope they look to the months ahead and open up their own front against ISIL in Libya, and work with the Egyptians and other NATO allies to put somebody sane in charge of Libya who can control their territory and keep it from being a playground for jihadis.