The Corner

National Security & Defense

‘Smart Power’ Update: ISIS Consolidates Its Hold on Key Libyan City

It looks like ISIS is expanding its reach in Libya, even to the point of developing a second operational hub far from its Syrian command center. The New York Times has the depressing details:

Iraqi commanders have been arriving from Syria, and the first public beheadings have started. The local radio stations no longer play music but instead extol the greatness of the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

When the Libyan arm of the Islamic State first raised the group’s black flag over the coastal city of Surt almost one year ago, it was just a bunch of local militants trying to look tough.

Today Surt is an actively managed colony of the central Islamic State, crowded with foreign fighters from around the region, according to residents, local militia leaders and hostages recently released from the city’s main prison.


The leadership of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, is now clenching its grip on Surt so tightly that Western intelligence agencies say they fear the core group may be preparing to fall back to Libya as an alternative base if necessary, a haven where its jihadists could continue to fight from even if it was ousted from its original territories.

It’s hard to believe that as recently as the first Democratic presidential debate, Hillary Clinton described the U.S. intervention that toppled Muammar Gaddafi as “smart power at its best.” In reality, we toppled a dictator that had long stopped threatening American interests and created a power vacuum quickly filled by murderous jihadists. The Obama administration’s tally of foreign-policy mistakes is staggering indeed — throwing away victory in Iraq, turning Libya into a jihadist playground, backing the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, drawing a fake “red line” in Syria, launching an ineffective air war against ISIS, the list could go on and on.

Reviewing the Obama/Clinton record, it’s neither smart nor powerful, and millions are paying the price in death, fear, and flight.


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