Islamic State Determined to Occupy European Port City

Setting their sights
The Islamic State has gained a foothold in North Africa. 

A shocking video released by ISIS shows dark-skinned, curly-haired soldiers training and fighting alongside hardened militants from the Islamic State provinces of Iraq and Syria. 

The Islamic State is essentially advertising the terrifying fact that it is capable of transporting its fighters by boat around the Mediterranean with little difficulty. 

Mali veteran?
It also is likely that many of the dark-skinned fighters featured in the Islamic State's new video are veterans of the war in Mali. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb took advantage of the power vacuum after the fall of Moammar Qaddafi and used his weapons cache to invade neighboring Mali; an invasion which would see French forces embroiled in a-yet-to-finish quagmire.

Defection from Islamic forces in Mali to ISIS in Libya has now led to a reverse-migration wave. Many of the tribal mercenary-militias employed by Qaddafi seem to be back on the Libyan coast, this time occupying nearly 250km of the Mediterranean.
SVBIED, shielded against gunfire

This branch of ISIS, however, is still behaving more like a terrorist group than a full-fledged army. Operational security is extremely high, and even the faces of Suicide Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device drivers are blurred.

This indicates that ISIS recruiters are operating largely in the open in Libya, and that the faces of recruits have to be hidden in order to reduce the chances of a link being made to their handlers.

ISIS Libya area of operation. New York Times.
The Islamic State area of operation is not as broad in Libya as it was in Syria during the early stages of the uprising against President Bashar Al-Assad. Al-Qaeda in Iraq, the precursor group to the Islamic State, did not have a directed takeover plan like the one the group seems to be employing in North Africa. ISIS in Libya seems to be almost dedicated to the takeover of oil facilities and coastline. 

Drone footage of SVBIED attack
German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently announced the deployment of German troops to Tunisia to help train Libyan forces in preparation for confrontation against the surging terrorist army. However, recent Islamic State advances in the Maghreb mean that Chancellor Merkel's overtures will contribute little to the fight against an enemy emboldened by continuous advances in North Africa. 

The truth is that Ms. Merkel is doing next to nothing, and Europe is almost completely blind to the threat that ISIS fighters moving about the Mediterranean pose to European security. 

Faces blurred to aid future infiltration
The civil war which saw Qaddafi's overthrow was relatively short-lived, and the level of street brutality was tempered by a NATO bombardment which eliminated most of the Libyan air force's ability to carpet bomb enemy targets. Unfortunately for Libya's native forces, imported ISIS fighters from Syria are hardened against enemies with an air force, and in their propaganda videos barely seem to break a sweat, casually employing battering rams to move shipping containers, a tactic which allows them to shield their fighters as they take-over street-by-street. 

ISIS street-sweeper
It is almost a given that the Islamic State's stronghold on the Mediterranean coast will be next to impossible for Libya's militias to break without massive international assistance; Libyan militias are simply in disarray and much less battle-hardened than Islamic State veterans from Syria and Iraq.

Although the Libyan branch of the Islamic State has yet to set its sights on invading Europe, it is only a matter of time. The current refugee crisis has caused problems for Europe, but the onslaught which will be wrought by ISIS in Libya will be more concerning for the European continent, deteriorating an already-precarious migration situation.

Battering ram used to move shipping containers
Libya is basically a stone's throw from Italy, and a simple wooden boat could make it from the North African nation to Southern Europe's shores. The refugee boat crisis which will ensue ISIS takeover of vast swaths of Libya is far more threatening to the national security of the European Union than the refugee wave coming from Iraq and Syria, as Turkey and the Balkans serve as a buffer which slows down any potential movement by would-be militants.

The Mediterranean sea, however, presents no such buffer. Militants from Sirte will hop on a boat, land on the shores of Southern Italy, and wage asymmetric warfare. Even if fighters don't make it to shore, hundreds of European coast guard lives could be lost preventing a beach landing.

Shipping containers used for cover. Tactic for port takeover in development?
Sadly, this was easy to foresee. NATO's bombardment of Libya clearly meant a power vacuum which would be exploited by Islamic radicals, in the same way that had occurred in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

That European and North American leaders could not foresee chaos in Libya similar to the quagmire in Iraq -- in a country without even a large foreign army to protect a transition government -- is simply preposterous.

Today ISIS has control of close to 250km [over 150 miles] of coastline, and that is a number that Europe and the US are not going to reduce anytime soon, perhaps by design. When that number rises to 500km -- and it will -- then the only solution for Europe will be to militarize its entire southern coast and turn the whole of the Mediterranean into a veritable police lake. Every single decision, or lack thereof, by European leaders has led to that eventual, horrifying scenario.

European sand tomorrow?
Will European leaders authorize jets to bomb port areas taken over by ISIS in Europe? Will European forces use missiles on the streets of the continent to blow up shipping containers sealing an area?

The European Union will either crumble, with each nation-state taking border and coastal water security into its own hands, or out of the ashes and panic that will ensue the first ISIS boat invasion of a European port city -- which is by now almost a given certainty -- will rise a federal Europe, with a European Army and Coast Guard. Make no mistake about it, a federal Europe is purposefully being forged out of internal crisis and external strife.