The Current

ISIS gains in Libya raise risk of failed state, deeper civil war

In the years since Western powers helped topple its leader, Moammar Gadhafi, Libya has descended into crisis. As the so-called Islamic State gains a foothold, countries including Canada are talking seriously about the potential for another military intervention in Libya.
A fighter from Misrata shouts to his comrades as they move to fight Islamic State militants near Sirte March 15, 2015. Islamic State, which analysts say is splintered into smaller factions in Libya, has sought to exploit turmoil in the major oil producer. (Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)

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More than four years after the Libyan civil war that deposed Moammar Gadhafi — in large part due to foreign military intervention — world leaders gathered in Rome to ponder the fate of the deeply divided country and whether military intervention may be in store once again. 

One of the members of the military protecting a demonstration against candidates for a national unity government proposed by U.N. envoy for Libya Bernardino Leon, is pictured in Benghazi, Libya October 23, 2015. (Esam Omran Al-Fetori/Reuters)

In the years since Gadhafi's overthrow, life in Libya has been marked by a crisis of unending violence, as various factions attempt to fill the political vacuum.

And most troubling to the wider world, ISIS is one of the groups that's stepped into that vacuum. 

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

How did Libya get to this point?

The Current reached out to Dr. Salem Langhi, an orthopedic surgeon at the Benghazi Medical Centre. Langhi came to work in Benghazi in 2010. He says the hospital where he works functions with no funds, no medical supplies and a shortage of medical people. He adds that Benghazi used to have 10 hospitals but now there are three. He can treat evident physical wounds but says people are suffering from the psychological trauma of living through random shootings daily, with no safety.

What role does the international community have in trying to address the situation in Libya?

Freelance journalist and researcher Mary Fitzgerald who specializes in Libya, says European leaders are misguided in suggesting  military intervention is a solution to what ails Libya. In her opinion, ISIS has no foothold in Libya as they do in Syria. Fitzgerald is a contributor to the book, The Libyan Revolution and its Aftermath. 

The quagmire in Libya is not easily fixed says Jonathan Schanzer, because he says it's really a proxy war with Turkey supporting the Islamist upstart government in Tripoli. Schanzer is vice-president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He says Turkey and Qatar are important allies on the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria; to criticize their support of the Islamist government would risk upset. 

This segment was produced by The Current's John Chipman and Sujata Berry.