The British government and Ministry of Defence are not prepared to send troops, warships and combat aircraft to Libya unless a Libyan unity government can be formed first. That’s the reported feeling coming out of No.10 Downing Street despite the fact that both Washington and Paris are calling for immediate military action. The reality is that unless a Libyan unity government can be formed then any efforts to defeat ISIS would be futile as political in-fighting between allies in Libya would only be counter-productive and leave the country even more destabilised. The MoD has also repeatedly refused to confirm that up to 1,000 British troops are ready to deploy to Libya to train local forces opposed to ISIS.
There are numerous political obstacles in the way of any calls for British forces to restart operations over Libya. Firstly, the British political landscape is still unbalanced by the decision to bomb Syria taken late last year.
While the Scottish National Party continues to oppose any extension of military action it is the crucial Labour Party vote that would be needed for any British action in Libya. During the Syrian vote the majority of the Labour Party supported military action despite party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s firm opposition. However, since then Corbyn has reshuffled his party putting more anti-military people in to key positions making it even harder for members of his party who support military action to have their say in any referndum on the subject.
According to The Guardian newspaper there is also concerns amongst the Foreign Office that the African Union has yet to endorse military action. Even if the UK Parliament does not decide to send combat troops or aircraft, British intelligence gathering assets could still be available to American and French forces as their use does not require parliamentary authority.