New clashes over Libya’s oilfields could wreck the fragile remains of the country’s economy. Beyond security help, international actors must support compromises on state financing between the opposing factions and help pull Libya back from the brink.
East-based strongman General Khalifa Haftar, opposed to Tripoli-based UN-backed Govt of National Accord (GNA), made military and diplomatic gains: his Libyan National Army (LNA) 31 Dec-1 Jan pushed Islamic State (IS) and allies out of Ganfouda, one of few districts in Benghazi still under their control. Following Dec visit to Moscow, Haftar boarded Russian aircraft carrier off Libyan coast 11 Jan and spoke with Russian defence minister via video conference reportedly about fight against terrorism and possibility of re-activating Qadhafi-era contracts for Russian weapons. Internal divisions in UN-backed Presidency Council (PC) worsened after Musa al-Koni, one of PM designate Serraj’s deputies from south, resigned 2 Jan saying PC had “failed”. GNA continued to face budgetary constraints as Central Bank delayed disbursement of 4bn Libyan dinars (about $2.7bn) requested for first quarter of 2017. Two U.S. B-2 bombers 18 Jan bombed two IS camps south of Sirte, reportedly killing some 80 suspected militants.
The UN-brokered peace process in Libya has stalled, leaving unresolved pressing issues like worsening living conditions, control of oil facilities, people-smuggling, and the struggle against jihadist groups. New negotiations are needed to engage key actors who have been excluded so far.
The imminent collapse of Libya’s economy could impoverish millions, foster chaos and more radicalisation. At the heart of Libya’s misery is frenzied competition for control over the country’s oil resources. Ongoing UN-led talks should urgently prioritise economic governance, local ceasefires and armed defence of oil facilities.
The Sahel’s trajectory is worrying; poverty and population growth, combined with growing jihadi extremism, contraband and human trafficking constitute the perfect storm of actual and potential instability. Without holistic, sustained efforts against entrenched criminal networks, misrule and underdevelopment, radicalisation and migration are likely to spread and exacerbate.
After six months of worsening clashes, Libya is on the brink of all-out civil war and catastrophic state collapse. All parties must press the two rival authorities to join a national unity government, resolutely uphold the UN arms embargo, and persuade regional actors to stop fuelling the conflict.
Unless Libya breaks the cycle of violence and urgently reforms its justice system, there is a real risk of an increase in assassinations, urban violence and communal conflicts.
The violent death of the U.S. ambassador and three of his colleagues is a stark reminder of the challenges Libya still faces and should serve as a wake-up call for the authorities to urgently fill the security vacuum.
Whether or not this state of suspended animation marks the beginning of Libya as a 'failed state' depends primarily on its economic standing.
The negotiations [over Libyan oil fields] take multiple groups and multiple actors to move things. It’s still a very fragile oil and gas structure.
Amid the uncertainty around the US presidential transition, both sides [in Libya's conflict] risk overestimating their strength and foreign backing.
The retaking of Sirte is certainly a negative blow to Islamic State affiliates in Libya because they will no longer have a territorial stronghold in the country.
Up until now it's the U.S. Democratic administration that has been the major cheerleader of the Presidential Council, and the U.S. position on Libya has really dictated the international alignments, at least among Western countries.
[General Haftar] can pitch himself as the man who liberated the oil terminals. Even his detractors will be happy with that and will recognise – if this does actually work out – that this was a good move.
Originally published in Internazionale
Originally published in Internationale Politik
Originally published in Foreign Policy
Originally published in Reuters