This article is the second of our series focusing on scenarios depicting interventions in the Libyan war. As detailed previously we have reached the following stage in our sub-scenarios:

External actors have decided to militarily intervene in Libya by taking a side with either the GNC or COR (Sc 2.1.1). The League of Arab States (LAS) meets to decide about an intervention in Libya and to form the related Joint Arab Force. Considering the position of each country, the debates are very animated to say the least (Sc As a result, the Arab League internally fragments over the decision to intervene. Nonetheless a Joint Arab Force is formed involving three countries, Egypt, the UAE, and Jordan. It is about to start intervening in Libya. (Sc

Scenario Libya intervention, war in Libya, future of Libya
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Sub-scenario The Limited Joint Arab Force Intervention Succeeds as No Other External Actor gets Involved Meaningfully to Support the GNC

The Joint Arab Force deploys its air and ground forces to Libya in support of the Council of Representatives. It coordinates with General Haftar to target and eliminate Salafi groups while simultaneously engaging Dawn of Libya forces that quickly respond to intervention, as Dawn of Libya considers Haftar and the JAF intervention a greater threat to the GNC’s survival than the Islamic State. With General Haftar’s eager support, the JAF-COR coalition eliminates Salafi group strongholds in Benghazi, Derna, and Sirte.

Denouncing international intervention in Libya – especially one that has partnered with General Haftar – the General National Congress and Dawn of Libya attempt to counter the JAF-COR coalition. However, Turkey and Qatar either decide not to provide any support to the GNC, or not to provide extensive support, which allows the GNC’s eventual defeat by the dominating JAF airpower and the coalition of JAF and Libyan military ground forces. Upon the conclusion of conflict, there is the potential for a peacebuilding mission as we assessed in Scenario A peacebuilding mission would still include rebuilding and strengthening a Libyan military, as well as securing the borders and disarming and reintegrating militias into society. The primary differences would be the elimination of Salafi groups and the fall of the GNC during the intervention, which would make a peacekeeping mission more feasible.

Indicators to Monitor

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

  1. The willingness to actually follow through with ground and air force contribution pledges. The JAF intervention will only be efficient with the promised contributions of ground and air forces from its participants, as the intervention planning during the previous phase was designed with an adequate number of promised troop contributions in mind.
  2. The level of conflict between Salafi groups. If Salafi groups are still diverting fighters and resources to fight each other (notably Islamic State vs. Al-Qaida), the likelihood of this scenario increases, as Salafi groups will be forced to fight a larger two-front war against both their Salafi rivals and the JAF-COR coalition. A past indication took place in the summer of 2015 when the Islamic State was drawn into conflicts with Al-Qaida affiliates and later expelled from the Salafi stronghold of Derna (BBC News, June 25, 2015; Laessing and al-Warfalli, Reuters, July 24, 2015).
  3. The level of external support for Salafi groups. An influx of external support in the form of foreign fighters, resources, and guidance would boost the operational capabilities of Islamic State and Al-Qaida groups in Libya – which would pose a problem for the JAF intervention. Past indications include reports of an influx of foreign recruits headed to Sirte, as well as reports of senior Islamic State leaders arriving in Libya (El-Ghobashy and Morajea, The Wall Street Journal, November 29, 2015; Crilly, The Telegraph, December 2, 2015).
  4. The GNC’s perception of the JAF intervention and its support of the COR. If the Joint Arab Force intervenes in favor of the COR (including General Haftar), the GNC will perceive the intervention as a direct threat to its legitimacy and survival, as well as a violation of Libya’s sovereignty – and thus will attempt to galvanize all the armed factions in its territory to oppose the intervention force. A past indication occurred when the GNC condemned Egypt’s airstrikes on Derna as “an assault against Libyan sovereignty” (Bayoumy, Reuters, February 16, 2015).
  5. Ability of the JAF-COR coalition to simultaneously combat Salafi groups and Dawn of Libya forces. The GNC will feel seriously threatened by a JAF-COR coalition, and will actively deploy its forces to counter the intervention. In the same way, Salafi groups actively begin operating against the intervention force – forcing the JAF-COR coalition to simultaneously combat an array of enemies. The likelihood of this scenario depends in part on the airpower of the JAF, cohesiveness and military planning of the JAF-COR coalition, and its ability to launch offensives on the Islamic State strongholds while simultaneously engaging the GNC’s forces (as the Islamic State strongholds would likely be the first objective for a JAF intervention led by Egypt).
  6. The willingness of external actors to continue backing the GNC, or to provide extensive support. Focused on its issues in Syria and with Russia, as well as strategically countering Iran, Turkey may decide to not get involved in countering a JAF intervention in Libya, and thus not send any support to the GNC (Brooker, ValueWalk, December 12, 2015). If the United Arab Emirates is a primary participant in the JAF intervention, Qatar will likely remain a supporter of the GNC, considering the UAE-Qatar foreign policy rivalry (Cafiero and Wagner, The National Interest, December 11, 2015). However, if Qatar decides not to provide extensive support to the GNC or put troops on the ground to counter the JAF intervention, the likelihood of this scenario increases.
  7. The perception of Libyan tribes towards foreign troops on the ground. Considering the deep impact of colonization on Libya’s tribal groups, some may consider foreign troops on Libyan soil reminiscent of colonization. However, Egypt has already foreseen this issue, and organized a meeting in May 2015 with Libyan tribal leaders to “coordinate operations and guarantee safe passage for the Arab troops,” in the event of a Joint Arab Force intervention in Libya (Mustafa, DefenseNews, May 10, 2015). Egypt’s meeting with Libyan tribal leaders serves to “reinforce the credibility” of a JAF intervention, thus mitigating tensions between tribes and foreign troops, and increasing the likelihood of this scenario. However, tribes siding with the GNC will likely perceive an intervention in a negative light and be willing to fight against both JAF and COR troops (see Mitchell, “Tribal Dynamics and Civil War II,” April 20, 2015).

Sub-scenario The Joint Arab Force Intervention Results in Intensified, Protracted Conflict as Other External Actors get Involved to Support the GNC

Similar to the outset of scenario, the limited Joint Arab Force intervenes in Libya and backs the Council of Representatives in engaging Salafi groups and the GNC’s forces. However, in doing so, the JAF intervention revitalizes the conflict and forces the GNC to request extensive support from Turkey and Qatar as it repositions its forces to engage the JAF-COR coalition. Not wanting Islamist movements in Libya to be crushed, Qatar and Turkey provide support to the GNC, bulk up the GNC’s power by deploying forces under the pretext of countering Salafi threats in Libya, or go to war entirely. Any of these responses by Turkey and Qatar result in a protracted JAF intervention with fierce opposition by Dawn of Libya and their tribal allies. Turkish or Qatari military action against JAF forces also has the potential to ignite a regional conflict (see below).

Facing an intervention force, Al-Qaida and the Islamic State call for external support to bolster their forces in Libya with an influx of fighters and resources. With stronger external support and well-established strongholds from which to launch operations and expand territory, Al-Qaida and the Islamic State put increased pressure on the JAF and COR, which intensifies and prolongs the conflict.

Whether the GNC alone gains significant external support, Al-Qaida and the Islamic State alone gain significant external support, or both receive external support, the likelihood for an intensified, protracted conflict increases.

Indicators to Monitor

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

  1. The willingness of external actors to provide additional support to the GNC. If the United Arab Emirates is a primary participant in the JAF intervention, Qatar will likely consider increasing its support for the GNC, considering the UAE-Qatar foreign policy rivalry (Cafiero and Wagner, The National Interest, December 11, 2015). Turkey may increase its support for the GNC, and possibly even deploy troops, if Saudi Arabia is not an active participant or supporting member of this JAF intervention, which would allow Turkey to expand its influence in the region without actively combatting Saudi Arabia (see Bokhari, Stratfor, May 5, 2015 for current Saudi-Turkish relations and regional goals).
  2. The level of external support for the GNC. If Turkey and Qatar are willing to boost their support for the GNC, their level of support will impact the likelihood of this scenario. Increasing arms shipments and vital resources shipments will help the GNC, but it may not be enough. If Turkey and Qatar decide that countering the JAF-COR coalition is strategically worth it, they may provide the GNC with air support, and possibly even ground troops if they plan to overtly fight the JAF-COR coalition. Air support and ground troops from these external actors increase the likelihood of this scenario occurring.
  3. The willingness of the Joint Arab Force to stay in Libya and fight a protracted conflict. The members of the Joint Arab Force intervention consider Libya a strategic situation that must be dealt with, lest that part of the region become completely destabilized and spread to their countries. Egypt, in particular, faces the most risk of a failed Libyan state and Salafi threats emanating from its next-door neighbor. If the JAF members are determined to side with the COR and eliminate Salafi threats despite the potential of protracted conflict, the likelihood of this scenario increases.
  4. The inability to eliminate Salafi strongholds. If Islamic State and Al-Qaida leadership divert large numbers of jihadists and resources to Libya, the JAF may be unable to eliminate all the Salafi strongholds and be forced to abandon the intervention for fear of turning it into a bloody, drawn out conflict that further destabilizes the region.
  5. Indicators 3, 4, 5, 7 for sub-scenario also act here in a similar way.

Sub-scenario General Conflagration of the Region

The limited deployments of Qatari and Turkish forces, or full-scale war against the JAF (who remain committed to staying and fighting) would likely cause general conflagration of the whole region and significantly impact the current geopolitical paradigm.

Sub-scenario The Joint Arab Force Intervention Fails, Forces a Withdrawal

Not wanting to remain in Libya for a drawn-out, bloody intervention with only a limited number of members, the Joint Arab Force withdraws its forces, and the intervention fails. After withdrawing, Egypt, the UAE, and Jordan may decide to provide substantial support to the COR in other ways, but they no longer desire to keep intervention forces on the ground in Libya.

Sub-scenario No Agreement Possible, No Joint Arab Force Created to Intervene for COR

The debate over whether to intervene in Libya or not came to an end when the pro-interventionist member states of the Arab League (Egypt, UAE, Jordan) abandon the creation of a Joint Arab Force, as they lack Saudi support and are instead asked to participate in Saudi Arabia’s newly announced counter-terrorism coalition to combat Al-Qaida and Islamic State threats (Omran and Fitch, The Wall Street Journal, December 15, 2015). Not wanting to launch an independent intervention without additional support, Egypt, the UAE, and Jordan consider Saudi Arabia’s new counterterrorism coalition less of a risk, but perhaps still able to provide Libya with assistance to combat Salafi threats (although they would not intervene for the COR).

Indicators to Monitor

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

  1. The level of Saudi support for a Joint Arab Force. With the creation of its new counter-terrorism coalition, Saudi Arabia is highly unlikely to participate or support a Joint Arab Force at this point. Without Saudi backing, and with a larger coalition whose mission is counter-terrorism rather than intervention and backing particular governments, the likelihood of this scenario increases.
  2. The level of risk between joining a Joint Arab Force or the Saudi-formed anti-terror coalition. If Egypt, the UAE, and Jordan consider the Saudi-formed coalition far less of a risk (considering the member states involved and the levels of support), they may abandon the idea of a Joint Arab Force and instead offer to combat Al-Qaida and the Islamic State in Libya through the counterterrorism coalition – thus increasing the likelihood of this scenario.


Featured Photo: Egyptian helicopters unload troops by SSgt. Cherie Thurlby, U.S. Air Force [Public Domain] via Wikimedia, October 25, 2001

Ahmed Al Omran and Asa Fitch, “Saudi Arabia Forms Muslim Antiterror Coalition,” The Wall Street Journal, December 15, 2015

Awad Mustafa, “Arab Chiefs To Meet on Libya Intervention,” DefenseNews, May 10, 2015

Giorgio Cafiero and Daniel Wagner, “How the Gulf Arab Rivalry Tore Libya Apart,” The National Interest, December 11, 2015

“Islamic State moves in on al-Qaeda turf,” BBC News, June 25, 2015

Jon Mitchell, “War in Libya and Its Futures – Tribal Dynamics and Civil War II,” The Red Team Analysis Society, April 20, 2015

Kamran Bokhari, “Why Sunni Unity Is a Myth,” STRATFOR Global Intelligence, May 5, 2015

Rob Crilly, “Islamic State is building a ‘retreat zone’ in Libya with 3000 fighters, say UN experts,” The Telegraph, December 2, 2015

Stephen Paul Brooker, “Russia vs. Turkey: Competition For Influence,” ValueWalk, December 12, 2015

Tamer El-Ghobashy and Hassan Morajea, “Islamic State Tightens Grip on Libyan Stronghold of Sirte,” The Wall Street Journal, November 29, 2015

Ulf Laessing and Ayman al-Warfalli, “Expulsion from Derna bastion may show limits for Islamic State in Libya,” Reuters, July 24, 2015

Yara Bayoumy, “Tripoli-based parliament says Egyptian strike assault on sovereignty: spokesman,” Reuters, February 16, 2015

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