By Marcy Kreiter @marcykreiter On 03/06/16 AT 12:47 PM
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Sunday stood behind U.S. action in Libya, saying if the country hadn’t participated in the bombing campaign that led to the ouster of Moammar Gadhafi, Libya would look like Syria.
The Democratic presidential contender acknowledged on CBS’s “Face the Nation” the situation in Libya is not optimal but noted the 1,500 deaths in Libya fighting last year were far fewer than the 150,000 in Syria.
“When I look at this, an absence of action … would have probably turned Libya into Syria, which I think would have been an even more dangerous situation,” Clinton said.
“It’s not good. I’m not saying it is. [But] it’s sure better than Syria.”
She blamed the turmoil in Libya on “outside forces” that have tried to subvert the will of the people, who have voted twice for moderate leaders.
“They held two elections. They voted for moderates. They voted for democracy,” Clinton said, adding she thinks the competing interests eventually will realize they need to work together.
Libya has been a flash point for Clinton. She has come under close scrutiny for her handling of the attack on the Benghazi consulate that left Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead. She underwent 11 hours of questioning by the House Select Committee in October.
Clinton supported taking action in Libya, where the United States led a coalition that provided air support for forces arrayed against Gadhafi.
Since then, the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, and other terrorist organizations have managed to gain footholds in the country, and rival governments have been set up in Tripoli and Tobruk.
The Sunday Telegraph reported the U.S. and its allies are laying plans for military action to oust ISIS, but intelligence assessments on the number of terrorists in the country may be off. The U.S. has put the number at 5,000 to 6,000, while the U.N. has put the number closer to 2,000.
“The estimates of the number of jihadists is grossly exaggerated,” Karim Mezran, a Libya expert with the Atlantic Council in Washington, told the Telegraph.