21 February 2016
According to German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen, Germany and its EU allies are contemplating an expansion of the mandate of the EU Mediterranean naval mission ‘Sophia’ – tasked so far with curbing the flow of human trafficking across the Mediterranean – in order to stem the rising influence of the so-called Islamic State in Libya. Von der Leyen stressed, however, that an official request for military support by a government of national unity in Libya would be a precondition for such an expanded mission. Such a unity government is yet to be formed in war-torn Libya. This shift in focus towards the situation in Libya comes as a US intelligence report averred that the number of ISIL fighters in Syria and Iraq was on the decline, while the organisation’s ranks were swelling in Libya.
In related news, representatives of the German foreign and defence ministries also announced that they would be holding talks in Tunisia in the coming week, with the aim of setting up a military training camp in Tunisia for Libyan soldiers. These new initiatives come after Germany, in the wake of the Paris attacks of November 2015, took on a more active role in the fight against ISIL in Syria and Iraq, as well as a greater role in the French-led military mission in Mali. At the same time, German military strategists have warned of further overstretching the capabilities of the German armed forces, with all branches of the army struggling with severe shortages in materiel and personnel.