How Libya Became the Ultimate Proxy Conflict

Once again, a U.S.-backed toppling of a longstanding dictator has led to a power vacuum and widespread violence that’s been exploited by a revolving door of militant groups.

The scenario that unfolded in Iraq after the 2003 U.S. invasion is replaying in Libya, where warring factions are battling for control of the capital, Tripoli.

The conflict has killed more than 2,000 people, forced tens of thousands to flee and opened up the oil-rich country to traffickers of African migrants to Europe. It’s been a mess since NATO helped oust dictator Moammar Qaddafi in 2011.

The latest attempt to secure a negotiated end to the war — by Russia and Turkey, which back opposing sides — failed when military commander Khalifa Haftar left Moscow yesterday without signing a deal.

It comes at a delicate moment for mainly Muslim areas of north and west Africa. Fighters allied to Islamic State and al-Qaeda are moving through Libya to carry out attacks in a wide area.

French and UN forces have been unable to stem the tide. With anti-French sentiment growing, President Emmanuel Macron yesterday coaxed West African leaders into publicly backing his nation’s intervention.

But as long as the fighting in Libya continues, militants there can use it as a staging post to spread violence across ever greater swathes of Africa.