Khalifa Haftar, who commands forces besieging Tripoli, has announced he will replace UN-backed mediation in Libya with a new political roadmap and government. His proposal divided supporters; adversaries called it a coup. To stop a power struggle, Haftar’s regional backers should press him to reconsider.
Despite renewed international calls for ceasefire amid COVID-19 pandemic, fighting around capital Tripoli and in western Libya reached unprecedented levels of violence, with a strong likelihood of continued escalation in May; meanwhile financial pressures mounted. The battle for Tripoli reached one-year anniversary in early April as fighting intensified between Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s Arab-Libyan Armed Forces (ALAF) and forces allied to Tripoli-based Govt of National Accord (GNA). ALAF forces early April continued missile strikes on southern Tripoli residential areas, causing civilian casualties, including 6 April targeted al-Hadba hospital equipped for COVID-19 patients. Tripoli residents week of 6 April suffered electricity shortages and cuts in water supply as pro-Haftar tribesmen in central Libya shut down water pumping station linked to Tripoli’s reservoirs. Turkey throughout month increased military support to GNA, partly enabling it to score significant victories across western Libya: GNA forces 14 April captured central coastal towns Sabratha and Sorman, under control of pro-Haftar tribesmen since 2018; GNA forces 18 April surrounded Tarhuna, ALAF stronghold in western Libya and base of operations for war on Tripoli. Meanwhile, GNA and ALAF forces throughout month continued confrontation near Sirte, central Libya, with heavy casualties reported on both sides, and GNA 12 April downed ALAF-operated, Russian-made attack helicopter. Turkish fighter jets 18 April conducted first ever military exercises over Misrata. Haftar 27 April declared that he accepted the people’s “mandate” to scrap 2015 UN-mediated Libyan Political Agreement and empower ALAF General Command to take control of country’s governing institutions; proposal divided supporters, adversaries called it a coup. Financial pressures increased in absence of oil revenues; ALAF-backed tribes continued blockade of oil production and export sites in place since mid-Jan, causing $4.5bn revenue shortfall. Increased dependence on foreign currency reserves led to tension between PM Serraj and Central Bank Governor Sadiq Al-Kabir; Central Bank 8 April adopted stringent measures on credit letters that paralysed food imports, increased both prices and black market requests for hard currency.
Turkish intervention in Libya’s war stopped the besieged Tripoli government from collapsing. But fighting with Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s forces has since escalated, threatening a protracted conflict. Both Ankara and Haftar’s regional backers should urge their allies toward a return to negotiations and a ceasefire.
Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s march on Tripoli has ground to a halt in a war of attrition with the internationally recognised government’s forces on the city’s outskirts. The parties should conclude a ceasefire including Haftar’s partial withdrawal as a prelude to renewed UN peace talks.
An under-reported banking crisis threatens to exacerbate deadly fighting in Tripoli, ignite a protracted resource war and deepen the country’s east-west divide. A way out requires agreeing to a ceasefire in Tripoli and ending the four-year split between the Central Bank’s rival branches.
Adherents of a Salafi school, the Madkhalis, are gaining prominence on both sides of Libya’s divide, causing concerns about puritanical agendas imposed through military and religious institutions. Negotiators should ensure that rebuilt security forces are politically neutral and secure the Madkhalis’ pledge to respect pluralism.
A renewed struggle this summer over Libya’s main oil export zone cut sales in half, squeezing hard currency supplies amid outcry about mismanagement of hydrocarbon revenues. To build trust, Libyan and international actors should review public spending and move toward unifying divided financial institutions.
Four main Libyan leaders meet in Paris on 29 May to sign a roadmap to peace, including 2018 elections with united international backing. But with Libya’s UN-backed peace process at risk from the meeting's format and the accord that France has brokered, the sides should instead commit to a broader declaration of principles.
[L’envoyé spécial des Nations unies en Libye, Ghassan Salamé,] était un envoyé infatigable qui voulait probablement plus la paix que les Libyens eux-mêmes.
Tout le monde veut la fin de la guerre en Libye, sauf que chacun a une idée différente de ce qui devrait être la nouvelle configuration politique. Donc la guerre continue.
[The new European Union foreign policy chief has brought] a renewed energy and willingness to look at Libya as a crisis and a war in and of itself.
The French need to clarify in greater detail. The open question is whether or not they are actively supporting Haftar’s forces in their offensive on Tripoli.
With the GNA and the LNA refusing to halt hostilities and amid diplomatic paralysis, the war in and around Tripoli is likely to drag on.
Haftar is deeply unpopular in many places and given the fragmented state of Libya and the proliferation of armed groups it’s going to be very hard to impose his rule throughout the country.
In this interview, Crisis Group's Libya Expert Claudia Gazzini try to provide some insight into Turkey's relation with Libya and the Mediterranean neighbourhood.
On 19 January, Berlin will convene the main parties in Libya’s conflict. This comes in the wake of the Moscow meeting between Libya’s two main rival leaders that failed to produce a ceasefire. Libya expert Claudia Gazzini discusses where the peace process may go next.
The continued violence between the two local forces competing for power, and their inability to cooperate has locked the conflict in a stalemate that sees no immediate end. In this excerpt from its Watch List 2019 - Second Update, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to work towards an internationally-monitored ceasefire.
Watch List Updates complement International Crisis Group’s annual Watch List, most recently published in January 2019. These early-warning publications identify major conflict situations in which prompt action, driven or supported by the European Union and its member states, would generate stronger prospects for peace. The second update to the Watch List 2019 includes entries on Colombia, Ethiopia, Iran and Libya.