Growing unrest has left Libya in a state of chaos and on the verge of civil war, and it may be time to close the U.S. embassy in Tripoli and begin pulling Americans out, says former House Intelligence Chairman Pete Hoekstra.
On Sunday, powerful militias aligned with renegade Gen. Khalifa Hifter stormed parliament and unilaterally declared it suspended in an attempt to weaken the power of Islamic extremists in Libya.
Members of parliament defied the demand and proceeded with plans to meet Tuesday in a secret location to approve a new, disputed prime minister.
The standoff between Hifter and the Islamist factions and militias allied to parliament is threatening to spiral into a battle for power that could escalate into one of Libya's worst crises since the death of Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.
Hoekstra, a Michigan Republican, told J.D. Hayworth and John Bacchman on "America's Forum" on NewsmaxTV that he doesn't want to see any Americans caught up in that potential violence.
"We're probably getting close to that point," Hoekstra said Tuesday of closing the embassy. "We saw the Saudi's have pulled their folks out. You would have thought that that might have been one of the safer embassies in Tripoli. The Saudis have pulled out, and so we're probably — we won't pull all of our folks out, we'll keep a skeleton staff, but we're probably at that point."
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Hoekstra said that since Gadhafi's ouster, Libya has been unable to maintain a strong central government, which is why it now teeters on the edge of a full-fledged civil war. That turbulent situation poses not only a threat to civilians on the ground but also a geopolitical hazard in the region.
"Libya is the northern part of Africa, it provides access to the soft underbelly of Europe for jihadists and radical groups to go into Europe and to foment revolution, foment attacks in Europe," he explained.
"The other thing that you now have is you've got Libya, when you're looking south, even under Moammar Gadhafi, it's hard to believe, but it was a stabilizing force for northern Africa. So, it protected southern Europe, it protected northern Africa, and now it's totally destabilized. You've got to worry about when the radical jihadists come and say that they're the ones that are going to defend parliament against attacks."
Hoekstra added that he thinks what will ultimately happen in Libya is that after "a façade of some elections and some new government formation," the Libyan people will clamor for a strong individual leader that can bring stability and security back to their lives."
"They just want the basics," Hoekstra said. "They want security. They want to be able to walk their streets, and they may go back and say that the only way we're going to get that is if we have a strong central ruler that can tap down these factions and can tap down the various jihadist elements throughout this country."
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