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  • President Barack Obama told a Fox News interviewer that not planning for Libya was his worst mistake as president.

    President Barack Obama told a Fox News interviewer that not planning for Libya was his worst mistake as president. | Photo: Reuters

Published 11 April 2016

President Obama said not properly planning for the aftermath of overthrowing the Libyan government was the worst mistake of his presidency.

U.S. President Barack Obama said the worst mistake of his presidency was the lack of planning for the aftermath of the 2011 intervention in Libya, which helped topple the government of Moammar Gadhafi and has since left the country in shambles. 

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In his first ever interview with Fox News, President Obama was responding to a series of questions on the highs and lows of his presidency. When asked what was his “worst mistake,” the president responded with, “Probably failing to plan for the day after what I think was the right thing to do in intervening in Libya.”

The U.S. and other countries, namely France, Britain and other NATO members, carried out airstrikes in Libya during the 2011 uprising, what they say was an effort to protect civilians. 

However, the strikes directly contributed to toppling the Gadhafi government. Since then, the North African country has descended into a noticeably worse situation amid political chaos and a growing extremist threat, while over 4,000 people have died in the ongoing fighting.

“Libya currently has no single government or central authority which controls the whole nation, there is no security, oil revenues have halved, and weapons flow out of the country. Libya is torn apart by a civil war between rival militias which has been raging since 2014,” wrote Alessandra Bajec, a Cairo-based freelance journalist, in an op-ed for teleSUR. 

In addition, the Islamic State group has since established a strong foothold in central Libya after capitalizing “on the power and security vacuum” in the country, added Bajec. 

Both Obama and then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continue to argue that the current chaos in Libya was not caused by the removal of Gaddafi, but rather the failure to prop up a stable government in the days following. 

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Obama's remarks on Libya Sunday were brief compared to those he made in an interview with The Atlantic magazine last month. When asked about the chaos in the North African country, the president pointed a finger at the leaders of Britain and France for their policies toward the region and their lack of interest in the country following the 2011 overthrow.  

“When I go back and I ask myself what went wrong, there's room for criticism, because I had more faith in the Europeans,” said Obama said, adding that given their geographical “proximity” their inaction is largely to blame for the “mess.” 

He then explained that British Prime Minister David Cameron became “distracted by a range of other things,” following the 2011 intervention, while French President Nicolas Sarkozy was eager to take credit for measure yet failed to act appropriately afterwards.

Obama also added however that “all of us – including the United States – could have done more in the aftermath of the Libyan intervention.” 

According to The Atlantic, the president privately referred to the North African country as a “sh*t show.”

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