After having focused on understanding the actors in Libya’s civil war, with this article we shall continue detailing the scenarios assessing the potential for a peaceful solution for Libya’s future within the next three to five years, suggest indicators to monitor their happenstance and progressively evaluating their likelihood. The first phases for this scenario were presented here (scenario 1.1 “Peace treaty signed” and 1.1.1. “Unity Government formed”) and the organisation of the whole series of scenarios for the future of Libya can be found here. The analysis and indicators below suggest that sub-scenario is unlikely to succeed without international assistance, which we shall discuss in sub-scenario

Scenarios 1: Towards Peace – continued

Summary of the previous phase-scenarios

The Council of Representatives (COR) and General National Congress (GNC) have agreed to participate in diplomatic talks for the sake of achieving peace and ending Libya’s civil war. (Sc 1)

The Peace Negotiations, Brokered by External Forces, were successful and a Peace Treaty has been Signed (Sc 1.1)

The GNC and the COR Successfully Form a Unity Government (Sc 1.1.1)

Click to access larger image

Sub-scenario The Unity Government is Able to Function and Make Improvements Towards Stabilization

Finally, the unity government is assembled and must now focus on stabilization. Legitimacy will be progressively enhanced as it stabilizes and thus succeeds in retaining supporters and opponents, forming a dynamical virtuous circle. The government follows a difficult course as its path is fraught with all the dangers and challenges inherent to stabilization to which must be added the still remaining warring groups – primarily the Salafi groups and any breakaway Dawn of Libya or Nationalist factions. To enforce the ceasefire and peace agreement, the government establishes strict accountability over militias, and either reintegrates militias into the security forces or back into the civilian population – which requires a functioning economy. Such actions are critical to the stabilization process and long-term peace. The government also ensures uninterrupted salaries for civil servants and security forces, without which stabilization cannot be carried out. Security forces take firm control over critical infrastructure – notably oil fields and production facilities that are vital to Libya’s economy. Meanwhile, adequate military forces are sent to Southern Libya to seize control of the porous border, preventing jihadists and their resources from entering the country as well as regulating illegal migration.

Strategic oil facilities at Ras Lanuf, Libya

In addition to combatting Salafi threats, controlling critical infrastructure, and securing the borders, Libya’s government must begin stabilizing other sectors; for example, a functioning justice system must be implemented, oil production and exports must increase, important infrastructure restored, and the banking/financial sectors brought back under control and developed. Making improvements towards stabilization rests on the state’s ability to deal with multiple complex tasks simultaneously, while respecting the various belief-systems of the Libyan actors involved.

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. Ability of the political authorities to make pragmatic decisions while accommodating various belief-systems. The inability to produce practical strategies and coordination of stabilization efforts will result in inefficiency and political stalemates, thus contributing to the insurgency. However, pragmatic decisions and strategies will drive the success of the indicators below, and thus can be measured by their efficiency and success.
  2. Coordination with federalist movements. The state is able to coordinate with federalist movements in Eastern Libya – namely the Transitional Council of Cyrenaica and the Political Bureau of Cyrenaica – on stabilization of the security and economic sectors.
  3. Set of indicators to monitor the ability to form a functioning justice and law enforcement system. Justice and law enforcement would have to be re-implemented on a national scale, with the clear exception of areas controlled by Salafi groups. Such measures would be a primary action to restore law and order in the civil war-torn country.
  4. Set of indicators to monitor the level of state control over security forces and militias. Tight control over security forces ensures the legitimate monopoly of violence and is crucial for a functioning state. For example, it is needed for the protection of crucial infrastructure, as well as accountability to the central government rather than local or regional political agendas. Lack of state control has the potential to lead security units into defecting to militia units or using control of vital infrastructure to fulfill political objectives. Failure to reign in the militias would result in the pursuit of local or regional objectives, as well as a high risk of a continued insurgency. A past indication was units of the Petroleum Facilities Guard defecting and seizing oil assets for a federalist agenda (see Mitchell, “National Forces I”). The state must monitor all militias to see what happens to those not integrated into security forces. Militias that pursue counter-stabilization objectives, such as seizing critical infrastructure or allying with Salafi groups, should be contained.
  5. Control of critical infrastructure. Energy production and oil facilities are secured so that energy needs are met and oil production grows. Both are critical to Libya’s stabilization process and must be protected by tightly controlled government forces – especially in areas close to Salafi strongholds or tribal conflict.
  6. Ability to control the border, primarily Libya’s Southern border. To control the Southern border, military forces would have to be dispatched – likely in conjunction with international forces – to destroy the al-Qaeda networks in the area, stop the flow of illegal weapons, jihadists, and illicit goods into Libya, and to regulate the flow of migrants passing through Libya. Thus, the government’s ability to control the border is crucial to stabilization. Without control of the South, economic, migrant, and security issues will continue to plague any stabilization efforts by the new government.
  7. Having the necessary forces and weaponry to combat Salafi threats. Securing the rest of the country while simultaneously combatting Salafi forces will require a substantial force, both in numbers and weaponry. Lacking in these areas will only prolong the insurgency and hinder the stabilization process. The UN lifts the arms embargo, allowing the unity government to import the necessary weaponry to eliminate Salafi threats. However, Libya’s government will likely be unable to defeat all Salafi threats without international military assistance, which we shall discuss in the forthcoming post.
  8. Increased conflict between Salafi groups. Increased coordination and coalitions between Salafi groups will hinder the government’s ability to fight them more effectively. However, divisions between Islamic State and al-Qaeda affiliates would greatly benefit the unity government and its military forces. A past indication was the Islamic State group in Derna driven out by al-Qaeda affiliates in the city (Paton, International Business Times, June 15, 2015).
  9. International efforts elsewhere against Islamic State. It is worth noting that international and regional efforts to fight the Islamic State elsewhere may also impact Libya’s fight against Islamic State groups within its borders by hindering Salafi momentum and external organizational assistance.
  10. Capacity of the unity government to fund its road to recovery, namely its ability to collect taxes on a national level, and increased oil production/exports to further its income. Stabilization will not be feasible without funding. Thus, the government must be able to collect taxes while simultaneously increasing its oil production in order to have a sufficient budget that can properly fund stabilization efforts.
  11. Ability to pay civil servants and military forces before reaching bankruptcy. Civil servants and military forces are necessary to preserve what is left of the country, initiate and then pursue a stabilization process; thus, their salaries cannot be cut off as a result of looming bankruptcy. Whether through oil export funds or tax collection, the government continues to pay the salaries of civil servants and military personnel.

Sub-scenario Libya and its United Government Destroy the Salafi Threats

Libyan airstrike on Islamic State fighters in Dernah, posted on Good Morning Libya Twitter page, 5 February 2015

With effective weaponry and coordination, Libya’s unity government engages Salafi threats in Libya, including the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda affiliates. Libyan military forces successfully destroy the Islamic State strongholds, Salafi groups in Derna, Al-Qaeda networks and training camps in Southern Libya, and other Al-Qaeda affiliates in the Northern coastal areas, such as Ansar al-Sharia. Successful elimination of Salafi threats accomplish three goals of Libya, as well as of the international community: 1) the elimination of Salafi threats significantly increases the success of Libya’s stabilization, 2) the elimination of illegal smuggling routes, jihadist corridors, and Al-Qaeda networks in Southern Libya drastically improve Libya’s border security and regional anti-smuggling/jihadist routes, and 3) the elimination of the Islamic State presence in Libya drastically reduces the Islamic State threat to Europe and also strongly undermines the Islamic State strategy for North Africa. Thus, removing Salafi groups in Libya is a national, regional, and international necessity, and most importantly, transforms Libya from an extremist launching point and stronghold to a stabilized, functioning state.

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. Deployment of military forces to Southern Libya. The desert realm of Southern Libya, in conjunction with a noticeable lack of military presence, provides somewhat of a safe haven for jihadist networks and routes. As such, the deployment of military forces to the region is tasked with destroying existing Salafi threats and preventing a future Salafi presence in Southern Libya.
  2. Indicators 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 for sub-scenario also acts here in a similar way.

Sub-scenario Libya and its United Government Fail to Destroy Salafi Threats

Although the unity government is able to make some progress towards stabilization, it ultimately fails to destroy Salafi threats. Lack of coordination, inefficient strategy, and absence of sufficient direct international involvement with a proper strategy allows the Salafi groups to remain entrenched in strongholds. National focus on eliminating Salafi groups prompts external support from other Al-Qaeda and Islamic State elements. Foreign jihadists travel to Libya and join the ranks of Libyan Salafi groups, further bolstering their strength and fighter experience. Facing a united government offensive, Salafi groups form stronger coalitions and coordinate their attacks. The civil war continues unabated, but with less actors compared with the beginning of our scenarios.

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. Inability to control the borders. The government’s inability to control borders, primarily the Southern border, will continue to allow a flow of arms and jihadists into Libya. Porous borders may allow Salafi groups to gain strength in numbers and to receive organizational support from external Salafi groups. A past indication is organizational support from Boko Haram to the Islamic State in Libya, where Boko Haram sent approximately 80-200 jihadists to the Islamic State stronghold in Sirte, Libya (The Clarion Project, August 26, 2015).
  2. Increased attacks from Salafi groups and any related territorial expansion. Jihadists increase their attacks in numbers and lethality, perhaps against political figures, critical infrastructure, or citizens. In addition to the strategic value of territorial expansion, it may also be a means to acquire external support.
  3. Lack of weaponry to combat Salafi threats (UN arms embargo). A UN refusal to lift the arms embargo on Libya may hinder the government’s ability to effectively combat Islamic State forces.
  4. Ability of Salafi groups to ally with other breakaway arms groups. Allying with hardliner Dawn of Libya breakaway groups may increase their strength and coordination against the unity government.
  5. The creation or strengthening of Salafi coalitions, resulting in increased coordination. Strong Salafi coalitions have the potential of mounting a fierce, coordinated resistance to Libyan military forces that are deployed against them.
  6. Ability of Salafi groups to exploit inter-tribal grievances or conflict. By exploiting inter-tribal conflict, Salafi groups have the potential to increase their power and influence in their areas of operation.
  7. Regional successes by other Salafi groups. Salafi successes in North Africa and the Middle East potentially strengthen Libya’s Salafi groups by allowing for regional alliances and coordination.

Without international assistance, sub-scenario is unlikely – making sub-scenario more likely to succeed. In our forthcoming post, we shall evaluate the remaining sub-scenarios of 1.1.1.


Featured Photo: Libyan representatives at peace talks in Skhirat, Morocco, posted on UNSMIL Facebook page, 28 August 2015

“Boko Haram Sends up to 200 Fighters to Join ISIS in Libya,” The Clarion Project, August 26, 2015

Callum Paton, “Isis in Libya: Islamic State driven out of Derna stronghold by al-Qaeda-linked militia,” International Business Times, June 15, 2015

Jon Mitchell, “War in Libya and Its Futures: State of Play – Nationalist Forces (1),” The Red Team Analysis Society, November 3, 2014

3 thoughts on “Scenarios for the Future of Libya – Scenarios 1 (2) – a Victorious United Government?”

  1. Dear Jon, A veteran scenarist myself I appreciate the OPTIONS for Libya you write. Admittedly the word ‘scenario’ is (mis)used in many different ways, not in the last place by the (conscious) confusion Shell creates using the word for two very different purposes. Most scenarists us the folling distinction: if one places oneself in the shoes of the Libyans in power, the different possibilities they have to create Libya’s future are better called ‘options’, whilst the events and developments outside their control that influence the outcome of the options, are called ‘scenarios’. Separating the domain of influence from that of dependence from outside forces – and reserving different words for them – is a more hygeniec way of thinking and working.

    1. Dear Herman, thank you for your very interesting comment. From what you explain and your background, you may be pointing out a crucial fact, some differences existing between foresight for business and foresight for international relations, security, political dynamics, and more largely threat to societies (not companies). If such differences as you underline may be made in the world of business, in international relations and war, it is impossible to adopt such an approach, as, for example, domestic and external dynamics are never separated but feed into each other. It is crucial that scenarios in the field of IR, security, political science etc. do consider these complex interactions and do not contribute to a belief that both world may be separated. Furthermore, we (at RTAS) follow a revisited “structural” approach to strategic foresight and to scenario analysis, and when you endeavour an influence analysis of all variables, as you know, you consider (to the least) influenced and influential variables… Such an approach does not allow easily for separating what is “controlled” (well, in politics the degree of control is always varying) from what is not, on the contrary but considers the interplay of both. That said, we might be thinking along the same line when we separate normative (how to achieve a desired future) from exploratory foresight (defining the cone of possibility and plausibility)… but again, in IR/politics/security, it is impossible to separate domestic from international, or even the actions of one actor from another, as all interact.
      Thanks again for your very interesting comment,

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