Canada Considers Coalition in Libya

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said Canada could join a military coalition to fight against ISIS in Libya. Libya has been a mountain Islamic terrorism bastion and civil war has been going since 2011. Adding to that, Canada’s foreign minister Stephane Dion said Libya needs a stable government to instill stability in the region

“There is a national government that we are recognizing but there are two other governments claiming to be governments. So that’s the first thing we need to know in Libya. Is it possible to have a government for Libya, one government? It’s key for the stability of the region.”– Stephane Dion, Canada’s foreign minister speaking in Rome

Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan
Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan

More than 3,000 ISIS fighters are believed to be in Libya and their numbers are growing everyday. The fact that the journey to Iraq and Syria has become increasingly difficult, young ISIS fighters are heading to Libya.

ISIS was forced to cede the Libyan town of Derna, but in the past few months they have taken areas in Libya’s “Oil Crescent,” and have begun attacks on the outer defenses of the city of Misrata. CREDIT PHOTOGRAPH BY STRINGER / REUTERS VIA LANDOV

Italy ready to take the lead

Italy announced it was ready to take a leadership role in the coalition against ISIS in Libya. In 1911, Libya became an Italian colony called the ‘Italian Libya’ and was disestablished in 1943 when  retreating German and Italian forces were forced to abandon Libya as they were pushed out of Cyrenaica and Tripolitania, thus ending Italian jurisdiction and control over Libya.

“I had a good meeting with my counterpart, the minister of defence from Italy, [on military intervention in Libya],” Sajjan said following a NATO defence ministers’ meeting in Brussels..

“Italy is willing to take the lead on this; once we have a good understanding of the political situation, that will allow us to figure out what we need to do,” said in an interview with Chris Hall on CBC Radio’s The House.

The fact that the Italian island of Lampedusa is located less than 300 km from the Libya coast enable Italy to have a command and control element close to the war-torn country.

Total agreement between coalition partners

Italy's Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti
Italy’s Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti

At the last Paris meeting — where Canada was not invited — Roberta Pinotti, Italy’s defence minister, said the coalition partners were in “total agreement” over how the Libyan government should ask NATO to intervene in the fight against ISIS. The Allies believe that if Libya ask for help, it will help fight the “jihadist propaganda” of another “Western invasion.”

The United States also expressed a greater concern over the ISIS militants activities in Libya.

Sajjan said Canada is willing to participate in the coalition if it has the right capabilities to assist in this mission.

“Before we can actually say ‘Yes we’re interested,’ ‘Yes we can do this,’ we’re doing what all responsible coalition partners should do [asses the political and security situation] and then decide if we have the right capabilities to assist in this mission.

“We will be part of that conversation,” Sajjan said.

“It’s all about fighting smarter … there needs to be a political structure in place that you can reinforce so that when you have the military gains you then have a political structure,” to safeguard peace and quell ethnic tensions, he said.

Canada to go back to Libya

In 2011, Canada launched Operation Mobile where a coalition of NATO allies, Jordan, Qatar, Sweden and the United Arab Emirates established a no-fly zone, countering forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi to launch airstrikes against anti-Gaddafi forces and civilians.

Canada then sent aircraft, warships and members of the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command.

  • Royal Canadian Air Force
    • 6 × CF-18 Hornet multirole fighter jets (one more in reserve) from Trapani-Birgi Airport in Trapani, Italy
    • 2 × CC-177 Globemaster III strategic transport aircraft
    • 2 × CC-130J Hercules tactical transport aircraft
    • 2 × CC-150 Polaris air-to-air refuelling tankers
    • 2 × CP-140 Aurora maritime patrol aircraft[10]
  • Royal Canadian Navy
    • HMCS Charlottetown (FFH 339), a Halifax-class frigate. (Deployed from 2 March 2011 – 17 August 2011)
      • 1 × CH-124 Sea King (Operated by the Royal Canadian Air Force)
    • HMCS Vancouver (FFH 331), a Halifax-class frigate. (Deployed from 7 July 2011 – 1 November 2011)
      • 1 × CH-124 Sea King (Operated by the Royal Canadian Air Force)
  • Canadian Special Operations Forces Command
    • Joint Task Force 2

Six additional CF-18s were placed on standby ready to deploy if called upon.

Canada's CF-18 Hornet
Canada’s CF-18 Hornet could be once again called upon in Libya.

That said, with Canadian soldiers engaged in Eastern Europe, Ukraine and with the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State in Iraq, it will be a difficult task for Canada deploy more troops to another war-torn country.

Depending on the role Canada could assume — most likely based on the same plan as Canada’s intervention with the U.S.-led coalition — it could become difficult logistically wise. Unless Canada’s withdrawal of its CF-18s from Iraq would lead to an air campaign in Libya, Canada will have to engage in a complicated logistical plan due to its restricted ability to move large amount of supplies across the globe.

However, in my opinion, it is possible with the help of coalition partners and would engage Canada further into the fight against Islamic State. Nevertheless, it is still too early to determine whether a coalition will assist the Libyan government or not and what Canada’s role would be.


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Jonathan Wade, CD

Jonathan Wade is the director of the ‘The Sentinel Analytical Group’ and a decorated veteran of the Canadian Forces. Specialized in tactical, strategic, intelligence and geopolitics analysis, Jonathan has a fondness for technical details. His military experience brought him valuable insight on the realities of conflicts and war. A combat veteran of Afghanistan, Jonathan brings in in-theatre experience. Jonathan writes about Russia, Canada and Arctic.