by Matt Conner, Towson University

Germany should provide military advisors, special forces and air-support, as well as, offer economic and humanitarian aid to the UN-backed, Government of National Accord (GNA) in Libya.  Supporting the GNA could enable Germany to minimize the risk of Islamic State (IS) terrorism in Europe by controlling the flow of refugees and migrants, as well as limit Russian influence in Northern Africa and the Middle East.   The Germans can accomplish this by deploying military advisors, special forces, and fighter aircraft to assist GNA military operations in Tripoli and Western Libya.  German economic and humanitarian aid could help the GNA provide basic government functions for the local population, and lead to an increase in the perceived legitimacy of the GNA.  The increased popular support could lead to greater cooperation with rival militant groups and create a GNA army that could be used to defeat the Islamic State (IS) and Ansar Al-Sharia (ASL), as well as the Russian-backed Libya National Army (LNA) in Eastern Libya.

Why Germany?

In 2015, Germany’s position as the fourth largest global economy, and its generous policies regarding refugees and asylum-seekers made the country an attractive destination for 890,000 Middle-Eastern and African migrants.  In 2016, security concerns regarding IS operatives entering Germany disguised as refugees, arose after IS claimed responsibility for nine terrorist attacks in France, Belgium, and Germany.  Today, enhanced security and border controls along the Turkish and Greek borders has made it more difficult for migrants to access Western and Central Europe through the Balkans.   Because of the partial route closure, Libya has become the preferred point of departure for Middle Eastern and African migrants seeking to enter Europe.

Before 2011, Germany and the EU relied heavily on former Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, to control migration between Libya and Europe.  However, the migration control provided by the Gaddafi regime ended, when the leader was killed by NATO-backed rebels in the “Arab Spring” uprising.  The Arab Spring was a failed democracy movement supported by the U.S. and NATO that aimed to establish democratic rule in Syria, Egypt, and Libya.  The lack of a legitimate government and maritime law enforcement made it easier for migrants to attempt the deadly migration across the Mediterranean.  Though migration numbers have decreased since Germany imposed greater restrictions on immigration, the possibility of terrorist infiltration remains a significant security concern.  German support of the GNA would help to establish a democratic government and increase Libyan maritime enforcement.

In addition to reducing the risk posed by transnational terrorism in Libya, the establishment of the GNA in Libya could help to limit Russian influence in the Mediterranean.  Russia’s growing perception as a power-broker in the Middle-East and North Africa affords Russia greater influence and recognition in world affairs.  One of Germany’s political objectives is to stop Russian aggression towards former Soviet Socialist Republics (SSRs) in Eastern Europe.  The Russian President Vladimir Putin is widely regarded as seeking to re-establish the territorial boundaries of the former 18th century Russian Empire and the USSR, calling the collapse of the USSR in 1991, “the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century”.  Russian influence in the Middle East and North Africa could provide Putin with the necessary political capital – or advantage over political opponents – that could affect outcomes and challenge German interests around the world.

In November 2016, Russian president Vladimir Putin, hosted General Khalifa Haftar in Moscow to discuss the Libyan civil war.  Gen. Haftar is the leader of the Libyan National Army (LNA) a loose coalition of militias that control most of Eastern Libya.  Once seen by the U.S. and its allies as a pro-democracy alternative to Gaddafi, Gen. Haftar refuses to recognize the U.N. brokered GNA, and instead, seeks to align Libya under his own self-styled military rule.  The LNA controls the valuable oil refineries in Eastern Libya, after re-capturing them from the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG), a faction loyal to the GNA.  There is evidence that Putin deployed Russian special forces and drones to Egypt in support of Haftar and the LNA advance.

The Causal Argument:

Germany should deploy military advisors, special forces and fighter aircraft to provide support to GNA military operations in Libya, as well as supply economic and humanitarian aid to help establish the GNA as a legitimate government.  The GNA was the result of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) which the U.N. helped to broker on December 17, 2015.  The LPA calls for the establishment of a democratic Libyan national government, called the Government of National Accord (GNA), which would share powers among the multiple factions and tribes in Libya.  The perception of the GNA as legitimate by the local population is vital to the success of the democratic government.  Germany should use its military advisors to help the GNA in establishing a police force capable of enforcing laws and remove the presence of militia rule.  Next, the German government should supply economic and humanitarian aid to the GNA so it can fulfill the basic the needs of the local population of Tripoli.  In gaining the popular support of the local population through increased legitimacy of the GNA, the government could expect an overall decrease in militia conflict and violence in Western Libya.

After helping the GNA consolidate power in Tripoli, German military advisors could help the GNA create an army by incorporating various pro-GNA militias, like Libya Dawn and Libya Shield, into a single command structure.  Together, with the help of German Special Forces, the Kommando Spezialkräfte (KSK), the GNA military can use fast, tactical strikes against IS and ALS camps in Western Libya.   The KSK has more than a decade of experience fighting terror groups in Afghanistan and Africa and could use their experience to help train GNA police and military units. Limited German military involvement, economic support, and humanitarian aid could help Middle-Eastern and African countries, like Libya, develop power-sharing democracies without the risk of overwhelming anti-U.S. sentiment preventing cooperation.

The GNA army, aided by German fighter aircraft and military advisors, could begin to recapture the oil fields, refineries, ports, and the city of Benghazi in Eastern Libya.  Oil production and trade is vital to the Libyan economy.  The oil fields, refineries, and ports are predominately controlled by the pro-GNA PFG and Benghazi Defense Brigade (BDB).  However, on March 14, 2017, the LNA re-captured the oil ports of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf from the PFG, after losing control in September 2016.  US officials claim that Russian special forces and drones were launched from Western Egypt to aid the LNA assault.  German presence in the region and support of the GNA could off-set Russian support of the LNA.  The GNA army, together with the BDB and the PFG, could retake the oil ports with close-air-support from the German Luftwaffe (Air Force).  After the GNA secures Eastern Libya and hostilities cease, the U.N. should initiate a peace-keeping mission and remain in Libya until national elections are followed by a peaceful transfer of power from one government to the next.


Germany should provide military advisors, special forces, and air-support, as well as offer economic and humanitarian aid to assist the GNA in Libya.  German intervention could help broker a resolution to the conflict in Libya by helping to establish the democratic GNA government.  GNA control of Libya could minimize the risk of IS and ALS attacking Germany and Europe, by controlling illegal mass migration across the Mediterranean. The success of the GNA in Libya could establish Germany as an alternative to direct U.S. involvement in the region and establish a democratic regime and US/EU/NATO partner in North Africa, limiting Russian influence in the region.