Libya’s new civil war is quickly becoming a war fought on many layered and at times competing fronts. There is now a regional, ideological and internationalised font in a war for what remains the heart and soul of a failed state that was once the most united, wealthy and stable in Africa. It was also incidentally the most effective state in Africa at prosecuting terrorism, more so even than the much larger Egypt, a country which spiritually and culturally is far more Levantine than Maghrebi (Arab Africa) as it stands.
Here’s what you need to know about where things stand in the Libyan failed state.
1. Tripoli versus Tobruk
At the moment Libya has two capitals, each competing for international and internal recognition as the representative seat of power in the country.
By far the more stable of the two capitals is the eastern city of Tobruk, not far from the Egyptian border. The governing Libyan House of Representatives in the Tobruk along with its military wing the Libyan National Army, is at this time not only the most stable faction but also the most competent and secular.
Its military and at times political leadership is the charge of Khalifa Haftar. Haftar was once a loyal and highly decorated officer in the army of the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (Libya during Gaddafi’s revolutionary Third Political Theory period/aka Green Libya).
In the late 1980s, in the midst of Libya’s war with Chad, Haftar fell out with Gaddafi and eventually moved to the United States where he became a citizen.
His current role in Libya is now overtly supported by Egypt. Haftar who controls Libya’s air force, coordinated with Egypt, the recent Egyptian Air Force bombing of terrorist targets in eastern Libya.
The forces loyal to the House of Representatives and Libyan National Army in Tobruk, broadly (though not dogmatically) oppose all of the factions in Tripoli.
2. Tripoli versus Tripoli
After years of different factions competing for power in the once undisputed capital of Tripoli, today one sees the western backed/US recognised Government of National Accord fighting with troops loyal to an even more radical body called the National Salvation Government.
At the moment ferocious fighting between fighters loyal to each side are fighting each other for control of Tripoli.
Recently, a group of armed militants proclaiming loyalty to the western backed Government of National Accord savagely executed 141 soldiers and civilians loyal to Haftar’s Libyan National Army. However, they were believed to be renegades not acting under orders from the Government of Natoinal Accord.
Therefore, in the ‘battle for Tripoli’ the Tobruk government has encouraged citizens in western Libya to support the Government of National Accord’s fight against the far more extremist National Salvation Government forces.
3. Terrorists and Pirates
While forces loyal to both main factions of Tripoli have engaged in terrorist style atrocities. There are also out and out terrorists including ISIS and al-Qaeda. These groups have often sought and received the support of local tribal and piratical gangs throughout the country. Because Libya is a failed state, many ISIS and al-Qaeda fighters who find themselves losing the war against the Syrian led anti-terrorist coalition and those losing against the Iraqi army in northern Iraq, end up running to Libya via Turkey.
Libya is now a terrorist training camp built on top of a failed state.
— اللهم أحفظ ليبيا (@alaqili27) May 28, 2017
4. The Internationalised Component
It is all ready becoming clear which factions are backed by which international powers.
The Libyan House of Representatives/Libyan National Army of Khalifa Haftar in Tobruk, is strongly backed by the secular government of Egypt. Egypt’s support has only increased for Haftar who has assisted Egyptian forces in targeting terrorists operating in the country.
Russia which thus far has not played a large role in the conflict also generally backs the Tobruk government and Haftar’s forces.
The key to Libya’s future is now as it has been for some time, Egypt. This is why Egypt’s backing of the Tobruk government ought to be a sign that it is the most legitimate of all the forces involved.
Turkey and Qatar have privately thrown their weight behind Salafist terrorist factions based in the Libyan city of Misrata as well as the National Salvation Government in Tripoli.
America and its western partners convinced the UN to back the Government of National Accord and the west continues back this faction.
The United Arab Eremites have at times and to some degree continue to fund every major faction in Libya while Saudi Arabia maintains covert links with al-Qaeda and ISIS.
Libya’s neighbours to the west and south-west, Tunisia and Algeria respectively, have taken a more agnostic position which in reality is more or less a hope and a prayer that the chaos of Libya does not spill over the border.
— فاتح يونس (@elkhashmi) May 27, 2017
5. The Consequences
Libya has been a failed state since 2011 and as both the Syrian led coalition and Iraqi and her allies make steady and consistent gains against terrorists, many of the surviving terrorist fighters have come to Libya.
Libya is in short, the next main front in the battle against international Salafist terrorism and unlike Damascus and Baghdad, in Libya there is no central government to coordinate the fighting. They can barely coordinate the infighting.
Furthermore, ISIS and al-Qaeda have had a comparatively easy time of seizing Libya’s strategic oil and gas reserves, something which could replace the now guaranteed loss of Iraqi oil as a source of revenue for groups like ISIS.
Libya also now serves as a major port country for human traffickers, drug smugglers, and weapons smugglers into Europe. Libya is also now by far the easiest rout for terrorists to enter Europe via the sea.
The less stable Libya gets, the more terrorism will almost certainly come to Europe and Egypt.