OTTAWA — Canada's top general says military intervention in Libya is not inevitable, but he's actively assessing options so he can advise the government on a possible way forward.
Gen. Jonathan Vance, the chief of the defence staff, stressed Tuesday he is not advocating one way or another for Canada to join a possible western military coalition in Libya.
Speculation has been rife that a new military intervention will be needed to deal with Islamic militants in Libya.
Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance delivers a speech to the Chamber of Commerce in Ottawa, Tuesday May 24, 2016. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/CP)
"At this stage right now, I'm not convinced that there's an inevitable western intervention," Vance told reporters after a speech in Ottawa.
Vance said much will depend on the performance of Libya's new, United Nations-brokered government and what assistance it may ask for.
"I think there are options depending on what the government of national accord would like to see done and how the analysis goes as to how best we could help," the general explained. "Just throwing military at it, of course, won't help anything at all."
'The country is coming to grips with the new government'
The foothold gained by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Libya's port city of Sirte remains a serious impediment to stabilizing the situation, he said.
"The country is coming to grips with the new government," Vance said, and it has a long way to go to "form government institutions, not to mention an armed forces that represents the country at large."
As he explained during his earlier speech to a Canadian Club luncheon in Ottawa, there are no clear-cut military victories to be had in the 21st century battles against terrorist threats such as ISIL and al-Qaida.
That's the rationale behind Canada's enhanced training mission in northern Iraq, which is helping Kurdish Peshmerga fighters take the ground war to ISIL.
ISIL also spread into Libya after it exploited the country's 2014 civil war.
Libya has been engulfed in chaos since 2011, when Canadian warplanes were part of the NATO-led coalition that bombed the country under a UN-mandate to protect civilians from then-president Moammar Gadhafi, who was later killed by militants.
The lack of a western post-Gadhafi reconstruction plan propelled Libya into a downward spiral. Various factions raided Gadhafi's weapons caches, leaving the country awash in arms.
ALSO ON HUFFPOST:
Her'es a look at some of what's been said — recently and otherwise — about Canada's evolving role in the U.S.-led mission against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which was officially retooled by the new Liberal government. (Information from The Canadian Press)
"Our efforts should better reflect what Canada is all about; defending our interests and freedoms alongside our allies and working constructively with local partners to build real solutions for the longer term." — Trudeau, announcing a larger training and development mission and the withdrawal of CF-18 fighter-bombers.
"ISIL would like us to see them as a credible threat to our way of life and to our civilization. We know Canada is stronger — much stronger than the threat posed by a murderous gang of thugs who are terrorizing some of the most vulnerable people on earth." — Trudeau.
"Left unchecked, this terrorist threat can only grow, and grow quickly. As a government, we know our ultimate responsibility is to protect Canadians and to defend our citizens from those who would do harm to us or our families." — Former prime minister Stephen Harper on Oct. 3, 2014, as he announced in the House of Commons a plan to send Canadian aircraft to fight in Iraq.
"Canadians did not invent the threat of jihadi terrorism and we certainly did not invite it; nor, as this global threat becomes ever more serious, can we protect ourselves, our communities, by choosing to ignore it. That is why a strong majority of Canadians have supported our government's mission against ISIL. Canadians understand that it is not merely in the wider interests of the international community, but specifically in Canada's national interest." — Harper on March 24, 2015, telling the Commons of a plan to extend and expand the mission.
"It is important to understand that while airstrike operations can be very useful to achieve short-term military and territorial gains, they do not, on their own, achieve long-term stability for local communities. Canadians learned this lesson first-hand during a very difficult decade in Afghanistan where our forces became expert military trainers renowned around the world." — Trudeau on Monday.
"Along with our allies and through the auspices of the United Nations, Canada should provide more help through a well-funded and well-planned humanitarian aid effort. The refugee crisis alone threatens the region's security, overwhelming countries from Lebanon to Turkey, from Syria itself to Jordan. Here at home, we should significantly expand our refugee targets and give more victims of war the opportunity to start a new life in Canada." — Trudeau as Liberal opposition leader in the Commons, March 2015.
"Our allies want us in the fight against ISIS, that is clear. This is a despicable terrorist group. And Canadians want us in the fight against ISIS because it is our fight and that is clear. When our friends and our allies are attacked, it is our fight and when our values are threatened and our country is threatened and our friends are threatened, it is our fight. And when human rights are trampled and human dignity is trampled, then it is our fight." — Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose.
"The prime minister likes to say he cares about diversity, but there is nothing that threatens diversity more than ISIS — whether it is the rights of women, cultural and religious freedoms, or the rights of gays and lesbians." — Ambrose.
"The Canadian announcement is the kind of response the secretary has been looking for from coalition members as the United States and our coalition partners push to accelerate the campaign against ISIL ... the United States is willing to lead the coalition in the fight against ISIL, but the barbaric group poses a threat to every nation, so every nation should join this fight. If countries are unwilling or unable to contribute militarily, then they should consider the important non-military ways they can contribute to this effort." — Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook during Monday's Department of Defense briefing.
"We are concerned that the Liberal government has chosen to place Canadian Forces personnel deeper into an open-ended combat military mission in Iraq — a mission that fails to even define what success would look like. And while we welcome the government's announcement today of increased humanitarian assistance to the region, we are concerned that this aid is being linked to the military mission." — NDP MP Helene Laverdiere.
"I commend Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for committing to increase humanitarian and military aid for the nearly 4.6-million Syrian refugees who have been displaced by five years of brutal war in the region." — Green party Leader Elizabeth May.
"As a founding member of the coalition, Canada has been a valued and willing partner in the mission to degrade and destroy (ISIL) and has played an important role across all lines of effort." — Bruce Heyman, the U.S. ambassador to Canada.
"We're pleased Canada is continuing to invest and play a leadership role in educating and protecting children affected by crises in Syria and Iraq." — David Morley, president and CEO of UNICEF Canada.