The inability to stop the growth in foreign fighters in the old-fashioned way by killing them in various battlefields is probably behind the well-funded US interest in the seemingly bizarre, ineffectual, and rather desperate anti-recruitment propaganda/psyops/Twitter wars blanketing the Internet, as well as the announcement that Hollywood has enlisted in the “anti-ISIS” struggle.
But criminality, terrorism and foreign fighters in there. The numbers, recently I've seen reported, are numbers I had not seen in the past, but some are reporting now that they believe as many as 9,000 fighters have gone and as much as 1,500 fighters have returned back to Europe. That's not our numbers, but that's the numbers I'm seeing widely reported.
During the brief rapprochement between Qaddafi's Libya and the West, the US and UK had helpfully renditioned some key Libyan Islamists from overseas havens into the hands of Qaddafi; these leaders were subsequently released by Saif Qaddafi as part of a conciliation process that turned out to be, to say the least, ineffective. The released detainees were promptly and generously patronized by Gulf sponsors and received money, arms, and training that were critical to the overthrow of Qaddafi. They might have been enthusiastic anti-Qaddafi assets, but by no stretch of the imagination could they be considered tractable US proxies in the post-Qaddafi period.
Notably, after the deposition of Qaddafi in 2011, both Libyan fighters and leaders found their way to Syria in bulk. Solidarity with Sunni Islam against another apostate potentate undoubtedly played a role, but the United States was apparently anxious to give the US-backed civilian government of Mustafa Abdul Jalil some breathing space.
Now the original fighters are coming home to Libya with their stature enhanced, their skills and connections upgraded, and their perspectives internationalized.
It's not just footsoldiers looking for a Libyan hidey-hole.
On February 11, 2016, the Daily Mail announced that Omar al-Shishani, the Chechen in charge of ISIS’ military operations, had apparently arrived in Libya in a 14 car convoy. So he can carry on the Afghan/Chechen/Iraq & Syria tradition to a new generation of conflicts in North Africa!
Clearly, with the US & NATO apparently short both on will and capable proxies, let alone an effective Libyan army, and without an effective and anxious neighbor like Iran (Egypt apparently unwilling or unable to try to set things right), Libya has emerged as a haven for Islamist fighters.
Instead of disappearing into the maw of the Syrian conflict, our Libyan Islamist proxies are coming home, and bringing a lot of new buddies to operate in the Libyan chaos that was somehow supposed to get fixed while they were gone.