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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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Society

Colombia Celebrates Its Beloved Drug For The Ages, Coffee

This essential morning drink for millions worldwide was once considered an addictive menace, earning itself a ban on pain of death in the Islamic world.

Colombia's star product: coffee beans.

Julián López de Mesa Samudio

-Essay-

BOGOTÁ — October 1st is International Coffee Day. Recently it seems as if every day of the calendar year commemorates something — but for Colombia, coffee is indeed special.

For almost a century now we have largely tied our national destiny, culture and image abroad to this drink. Indeed it isn't just Colombia's star product, it became through the course of the 20th century the world's favorite beverage — and the most commonly used drug to boost work output.

Precisely for its stimulating qualities — and for being a mild drug — coffee was not always celebrated, and its history is peppered with the kinds of bans, restrictions and penalties imposed on the 'evil' drugs of today.

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