Politics

Top general says military action in Libya not inevitable, but Canada watching closely

Canada's top general says military intervention in Libya is not inevitable, but he's actively assessing options so he can advise the government on a possible way forward.

ISIS controls some of the country's coastal cities, including Sirte

Chief of Defence Staff, General Jonathan Vance, says a military intervention in Libya is not entirely off the table as ISIS maintains a foothold in some coastal areas of the country. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

Canada's top general says military intervention in Libya is not inevitable, but he's actively assessing options so he can advise the government on a possible way forward.

Gen. Jonathan Vance, the chief of the defence staff, stressed Tuesday he is not advocating one way or another for Canada to join a possible western military coalition in Libya.

Speculation has been rife that a new military intervention will be needed to deal with Islamic militants in Libya.

"At this stage right now, I'm not convinced that there's an inevitable western intervention," Vance told reporters after a speech in Ottawa.

Vance said much will depend on the performance of Libya's new, United Nations-brokered government and what assistance it may ask for.

"I think there are options depending on what the government of national accord would like to see done and how the analysis goes as to how best we could help," the general explained. "Just throwing military at it, of course, won't help anything at all."

The foothold gained by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Libya's port city of Sirte remains a serious impediment to stabilizing the situation, he said.

A fighter from Misrata shouts to his comrades as they move to fight Islamic State militants near Sirte March 15, 2015. Militants loyal to the Islamic State, the group which has seized much of Iraq and Syria, have established a larger presence in central Libya. (Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)

"The country is coming to grips with the new government," Vance said, and it has a long way to go to "form government institutions, not to mention an armed forces that represents the country at large."

As he explained during his earlier speech to a Canadian Club luncheon in Ottawa, there are no clear-cut military victories to be had in the 21st century battles against terrorist threats such as ISIL and al-Qaida.

That's the rationale behind Canada's enhanced training mission in northern Iraq, which is helping Kurdish Peshmerga fighters take the ground war to ISIL.

ISIL also spread into Libya after it exploited the country's 2014 civil war.

Libya has been engulfed in chaos since 2011, when Canadian warplanes were part of the NATO-led coalition that bombed the country under a UN-mandate to protect civilians from then-president Moammar Gadhafi, who was later killed by militants.

The lack of a western post-Gadhafi reconstruction plan propelled Libya into a downward spiral. Various factions raided Gadhafi's weapons caches, leaving the country awash in arms.

Former Supreme Allied Commander at NATO Admiral James Stavridis weighs in on the anti-ISIS mission and confronting the growing threat in Libya. 10:13

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