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Exclusive: France's Clandestine "Precursor" Operations In Libya

Sabratha, Libya, a day after the Feb. 19 U.S. raid against a Tunisian ISIS cell.
Sabratha, Libya, a day after the Feb. 19 U.S. raid against a Tunisian ISIS cell.
Nathalie Guibert

PARIS — Pinpointed strikes, carried out covertly: This is France's strategy to face down the threat of ISIS in Libya. A senior French official has confirmed to Le Monde that "the last thing that should be done is to intervene in Libya. Avoiding any open military engagement, we must act discreetly."

In Libya where France has closely monitored ISIS for months, the goal is not to win a war but to disrupt the structure of the terrorist group in order to undermine its spread. This is done through coordinated actions between Washington, London and Paris, like the Feb. 19 U.S. raid against a Tunisian ISIS cell in Sabratha in northwestern Libya.

French President Francois Hollande's current policy is based around "non-official" military actions. French special forces were spotted in eastern Libya last week by specialist bloggers. But that's not all: Several sources told Le Monde that the fight against terrorism includes covert operations conducted by the Action Service of the General Directorate for External Security (DGSE), France's foreign intelligence agency. These forces are also provided by the military but remain invisible.

In military doctrine, clandestine special forces are considered "precursors," conventional tools in the absence of a framework for an open war. This strategy, commonly referred to as a "theater opening," does not necessarily presuppose a future open war.

An international intervention has been discussed for months behind closed doors, but has so far been shunned by the Libyan authorities who have indicated that they would tolerate targeted actions but oppose a foreign coalition on their soil. The main Western players that could put together such a force — France, U.S. or Italy — have a meager appetite for war after the 2011 operation that overthrew Col. Muammar Gaddafi and caused chaos in the region, especially as the intervention was carried out in the absence of a United Nations mandate.

Still, exerting pressure on ISIS in Libya would risk further diverting the threat to the ever-fragile Tunisia, or even bring the threat northward to southern Europe. Due to their advances in Libya, "for the first time, ISIS has a coast," notes a senior French Navy source. "We are preparing for scenarios at sea."

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The Unsustainable Future Of Fish Farming — On Vivid Display In Turkish Waters

Currently, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming, compared to just 10% two decades ago. The short-sightedness of this shift risks eliminating fishing output from both the farms and the open seas along Turkey's 5,200 miles of coastline.

Photograph of two fishermen throwing a net into the Tigris river in Turkey.

Traditional fishermen on the Tigris river, Turkey.

Dûrzan Cîrano/Wikimeidia
İrfan Donat

ISTANBUL — Turkey's annual fish production includes 515,000 tons from cultivation and 335,000 tons came from fishing in open waters. In other words, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming.

It's a radical shift from just 20 years ago when some 600,000 tons, or 90% of the total output, came from fishing. Now, researchers are warning the current system dominated by fish farming is ultimately unsustainable in the country with 8,333 kilometers (5,177 miles) long.

Professor Mustafa Sarı from the Maritime Studies Faculty of Bandırma 17 Eylül University believes urgent action is needed: “Why were we getting 600,000 tons of fish from the seas in the 2000’s and only 300,000 now? Where did the other 300,000 tons of fish go?”

Professor Sarı is challenging the argument from certain sectors of the industry that cultivation is the more sustainable approach. “Now we are feeding the fish that we cultivate at the farms with the fish that we catch from nature," he explained. "The fish types that we cultivate at the farms are sea bass, sea bram, trout and salmon, which are fed with artificial feed produced at fish-feed factories. All of these fish-feeds must have a significant amount of fish flour and fish oil in them.”

That fish flour and fish oil inevitably must come from the sea. "We have to get them from natural sources. We need to catch 5.7 kilogram of fish from the seas in order to cultivate a sea bream of 1 kg," Sarı said. "Therefore, we are feeding the fish to the fish. We cannot cultivate fish at the farms if the fish in nature becomes extinct. The natural fish need to be protected. The consequences would be severe if the current policy is continued.”

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