We left Libya in ruins. Now, it's a crucible of terror that has come back to haunt us

by | Jun 24, 2020


The CIA calls it ‘blowback’, when the unintended consequences of what seemed like a good policy at the time come back to bite you.

The classic example is Western sponsorship of radical Islamist fighters against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

That covert war against the Kremlin was a significant factor in crippling Communism in Russia which was a good thing, surely? It certainly seemed cost-free for America — until that bright morning of September 11, 2001, when Afghan-based terrorism struck New York and Washington on a grand scale.

Today our own nation is reeling from yet another savage consequence of our own ‘blowback’, after three people were randomly and fatally stabbed and three others wounded, as they sat enjoying a warm evening in a local park.


The alleged perpetrator, 25-year-old Khairi Saadallah, is a Libyan refugee. And in the initial aftermath, as the horror sank in and claims of a possible ‘terror’ link filtered through, the people of Reading found themselves confronting the same grim question as did the people of Manchester in May 2017 after a 22-year-old Libyan refugee, Salman Abedi, detonated a bomb killing 22 at a pop concert.

“Why us? Why here?”

To understand the Libyan link, think back to 2011. David Cameron’s government was confident the Libyan dictator, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, would be the latest domino to fall in the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ of popular uprisings.

Gaddafi, who had funded the IRA and was key to Lockerbie, had plenty of domestic enemies. All they needed to get him out was some aerial support from the RAF and other Nato allies.

Then democracy and human rights would flourish in the oil-rich country and it would no longer be the maverick and threatening nation it was under Gaddafi’s aggressively eccentric 40-year rule. So after six months of bombing, Gaddafi met the grisly fate of tyrants throughout history.

But there was no new dawn for Libya. The armed groups who had been the West’s allies immediately quarrelled over the spoils, especially the oil.

Civil war, violent faction-fighting and social disruption have prevailed ever since, with Libya also becoming the gateway for African migrants heading to Europe.

This chaos has given militant Islamic terrorists an ideal breeding ground for spreading their anti-Western ideology, and a place to train terrorists and practise bomb-making.

Our fly-by-night intervention has turned into a nightmare that continues to haunt us as well as Libya. The litany of terrorist atrocities committed by Libyans or by people trained in Islamist camps there has been growing.

Just as Afghanistan became a safe haven for terrorists in the 1990s, though a hell-hole for its people, Libya has gone the same way.

Indeed, it has become the perfect laboratory — and one located close to Europe — for indoctrination and terrorist training. With so many Libyans engaged in fighting each other, the terror groups can hole up in camps far from any police or state control.

Fair Use Excerpt. Read the whole article here.

Almond is an Academic Advisor to the Ron Paul Institute.


  • Mark Almond

    Prof. Almond is a Lecturer in Modern History at Oriel College, Oxford and at Bilkent University in Turkey. He is the author of Revolution: 500 Years of Struggle for Change (1996).

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