Sunday, May 29, 2016
Libya, Greece, NATO, Russia, the US...the Mediterranean Is a Hotspot
As we remember the sacrifices of our Veterans on Memorial Day, let's consider a current military hotspot. Israel Defense online has quoted US Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff : "We will soon decide whether to deploy American troops in Libya." Dunford told Voice of America that Libya is in a “period of intense dialogue” that could soon lead to an agreement to deploy US military to assist in the fight against ISIS, adding there's interest among NATO nations in joining the mission to train and equip militias loyal to Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj, the leader of the new Libyan Government of National Accord, backed by the UN. Dunford refused to give details about US Special Operations troops deployed to the Libyan cities of Misrata and Benghazi in late 2015, who are assessing who could be partners for US forces. ~~~~~ This news follows the announced completion of the 10th annual Exercise Phoenix Express in Greece, May 17 to 28. The maritime exercise involved navies from Europe, North Africa, and the United States, and was sponsored by US Africa Command and US Naval Forces Europe-Africa/US 6th Fleet. The goal was to "improve regional cooperation, increase maritime domain awareness, information-sharing practices, and operational capabilities to enhance efforts to achieve safety and security in the Mediterranean Sea." The control group was hosted at the NATO Maritime Interdiction Operations Training Center in Souda Bay, Greece, but training took place throughout the Mediterranean. The at-sea exercises tested the forces' abilities to combat illegal migration, illicit trafficking, and movement of materials for weapons of mass destruction. The forces also practiced search-and-rescue procedures for vessels in distress. ~~~~~ And, a British navy warship is poised to enter Libyan waters for the first time to intercept vessels smuggling migrants, as well as arms headed for ISIS terrorists. It has also recently been admitted that the migrants include hidden ISIS jihadists. Libya is expected to formally request vessel interception help from the UK to stem the deepening migrant chaos. Operation Sophia, the EU effort to prevent migrants being smuggled to Europe on the Mediterranean, has seized and destroyed smugglers’ boats, but the mission operates in international - not Libyan - waters. Britain already has four vessels in Operation Sophia and in a joint NATO exercise to monitor waters off Libya. Britain and the US want NATO to do more to help the EU Sophia mission. ~~~~~ The NATO thread in these activities has not gone unnoticed. Russian RT News reported Friday that Greece, Italy and Malta have closed their airspaces to Libyans until September, issuing NOTAMs (notice to airmen). RT said the NOTAMs came amid rumors of a likely NATO operation in Libya. NATO, however, says such rumors are “baseless." An exception to the NOTAMs permits airspace use for authorized military aircraft and emergencies such as medical evacuations, according to a Greek daily that says the NOTAMs were made ahead of the EU and NATO Phoenix Express exercises. But, it has been noted that the NOTAMs continue long after the exercises end. Russia upper parliamentary chamber foreign relations committee chief Konstantin Kosachev has warned any NATO action [in Libya] would cause "chaos," saying NATO should seek UN support. ~~~~~ Dear readers, in April, US President Obama and NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg agreed they want to help Libya eliminate ISIS. Several more NATO exercises will take place soon near Greece, which seems set to be key in any possible intervention against ISIS in Libya -- as a staging area, receiving aircraft carrying evacuees, housing VIPs. Israel defense reported Sunday NATO has launched DYNAMIC MANTA 2016 -- anti-submarine warfare exercises in the Mediterranean -- because the US wants to search for Russian submarines carrying cruise missiles under cover of a NATO exercise. Are NATO and the US preparing to deal with both ISIS in Libya, calling it training, and Russia's growing Mediterranean presence? More tomorrow.