LONDON: The overthrow of Libya’s former leader Muammar Gaddafi was a major strategic error and an “immoral” mistake, according to a new book by a French former secret service agent.
Jean-Francois Lhuillier, 69, served France’s Directorate General for External Security, or DGSE, for 27 years, including as Tripoli station chief. He retired in 2014, three years after Gaddafi’s fall.
His book, “The Tripoli Man: Memoirs of a Secret Agent,” describes the decision by France’s then-President Nicolas Sarkozy to back rebel groups taking on Gaddafi’s regime as “not thought through,” with “disastrous” consequences.
In an interview with TV channel France 2, the former commando said: “The military operation was brilliantly run but … there was trickery because Gaddafi was extending his hand to the West.
“Not only didn’t we grasp the hand that was being extended to us, but we also cut the head off. I find that completely immoral to have done that.”
Lhuillier added: “We eliminated Gaddafi and destroyed his country without worrying that it was a rampart against Islamist terrorism.
“The consequences of this disastrous expedition were not foreseen. It was incomprehensible that Sarkozy wanted his scalp.”
In the book, Lhuillier says members of the French and Libyan governments had close links to each other before Gaddafi fell.
Sarkozy was indicted for receiving money for political campaigning from the Libyan dictator in 2007, and members of the regime said they had given him millions of dollars.
Lhuillier also says DGSE agents were working with Libyan rebel groups, and UK Special Air Service personnel were on the ground in Libya working to overthrow Gaddafi as well.
The book cites one incident in which a Scottish operative known as “Pierce” asked Lhuillier to give the SAS the whereabouts of DGSE operatives in Libya in order to coordinate operations. At the time, Lhuillier said, he was unaware that either group was working in the country.
“So it was a member of a foreign service who informed me about the presence of my colleagues in the country,” he said. “I put on a big smile and pretended that I knew.”
Lhuillier added that though it was Sarkozy who persuaded the British to join the campaign against Gaddafi, the DGSE was frequently out-thought and out-maneuvered by their UK counterparts.
In one example, Lhuillier said the head of the DGSE flew to Tunisia in March 2011 a bid to get Moussa Koussa, Libya’s then foreign minister, to defect, only to discover he was already in London. “No doubt our British allies must have made a more generous offer,” Lhuillier wrote.
He laments in the book that the DGSE has lost its military effectiveness and values since it was opened up to civilian command in 1985 following the sinking of the Greenpeace vessel Rainbow Warrior by DGSE operatives off the coast of New Zealand.
In a statement, the DGSE said: “By publishing such works, former members of the service are breaking their oath (of secrecy) and damaging the institution.”