The Islamic State has expanded its presence in the failed state of Libya, and if not confronted, the terror group may be able to gain strategic territory in its quest to form an Islamic Caliphate, according to the Washington Institute’s Andrew Engel. While the United States and its allies are focused on Syria and Iraq, IS (commonly referred to as ISIL or ISIS) has its eyes beyond that fight.
The report, titled The Islamic State’s Expansion in Libya, says Libya’s ex-ambassador to the Emirates Aref Ali Nayed is worried that if Washington does not act, IS will use Libya to threaten Europe. The IS has increased its physical and media presence in the last three months. A local terrorist organization, the Islamic Youth Shura Council (IYSC), has pledged its loyalty to IS.
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"ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi recognized the Libyan ‘provinces’ of Barqa (Cyrenaica), Tripolitania, and Fezzan as belonging to his self-styled ‘caliphate,’" Engel said.
Adding to concerns, IS is winning the battle to be the dominant terrorist group in the region, just as it is in Iraq and Syria. Al-Barqawi has said that the terrorist organization would like to remove the borders of North African countries Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt to form a province similar to the one they are building in Syria and Iraq, which they call the "Euphrates Province."
Because of the priority western allies have put on Iraq and Syria, Engel said that the biggest challenge for countering IS in Libya is finding the "resources and will to organize a strategy and partners."